Hundreds of students, faculty and members of the community gathered on the second floor of the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons Building to meet Mitt Romney during his visit to Dixie State University on Monday.
Romney’s campaign staff coordinated with DSU faculty and staff as well as a number of volunteers from around campus to make the visit happen. Romney arrived in the late morning on Monday, had a private meeting with President Biff Williams and made himself available to meet the crowd that had gathered and take pictures with them.
Volunteers directed the crowd, gathered required signatures for Romney’s nomination to run for senate, held signs and posters in support of Romney, handed out merchandise, and recruited more volunteers to help Romney’s campaign in Washington county.
Hannah McGough, a junior biology major from Las Vegas, helped staff the event by manning the volunteer sign-up table, helping people register to vote and getting signatures. She said she was excited to volunteer because she thinks Romney would make a good senator for Utah.
“I read an article once where he said that Utah has a lot to teach,” McGough said. “Which I think is absolutely amazing. I moved here from Vegas and I, 100 percent, agree with that.”
Romney hopes to gain the support of students and local citizens in his bid for Orrin Hatch's soon-to-be-vacated senate seat. He has been actively campaigning for just under 3 weeks and has already made numerous stops in Utah.
“It’s awesome that [he came] to Dixie State — we’ve never had such a big, political figure down here,” Connor Heward, a senior Spanish major from Santa Clara, and Romney campaign volunteer, said. “It’ll be awesome to see him interact with the students... It’s a big step for Dixie as it grows.”
The event was well-received by Romney and his staff and they were grateful for the opportunity to visit DSU.
“Dixie State’s been wonderful to work with,” MJ Henshaw, communications director for Romney’s campaign, said. “[They’ve] been wonderful hosts for us.”
“It’s great to be at Dixie today,” Romney said. “What an extraordinary mission the university has, which is welcoming people in from all different backgrounds, giving them...degrees — it’s a very powerful story.”
Romney hoped students would join his campaign and said students don’t have to write ads and sit in meetings to get involved.
“The way you get involved is by collecting signatures, going to caucuses, perhaps becoming a delegate to the convention, or at least voting for delegates, [or] maybe volunteering going door-to-door [to] do some canvassing,” Romney said. “Those are the ways you start in the campaign. The people in my staff largely began that very way.”
The Romney campaign has decided to forego the use of paid signature gatherers in favor of reaching out to grassroots support to gather the tens of thousands of signatures necessary to be nominated for the senate primaries.
“We’ve had so many people offer to help out that we decided, ‘Let’s rely to the greatest extent on volunteer helpers,’” Romney said.
Romney invited students to get involved in the political process and said he can do more for Utah than the average incoming junior senator.
“The students at DSU need to understand that if they want to have great starting jobs and great careers, they need to have people in government who understand how the economy works, who have actually been in a real job, not spending their lives in politics,” Romney said.
Romney likes his chances of winning the senate race, but said in politics you can never take anything for granted.
“You have to work very hard to let people know who you are,” Romney said. “The best way to have people to know who I am is to go out and meet them person by person. People make their judgement in the connection that we make.”
Romney encouraged everyone to sign his petition to appear on the primary ballot and to vote for him to become Utah’s newest junior Senator.
“As a U.S. senator, if I’m lucky enough to get elected, I will fight to make sure that we have good jobs for the people of Utah,” Romney said. “I’m going to go to work to try and help every community in our state.”