Romney visits supporters in Edinaby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a brief, weekend stop in Minnesota to raise money and fire up his supporters before the state's precinct caucuses on Tuesday.
Romney emphasized his conservative credentials Saturday night during a campaign rally at an Edina office building.
Edina, Minn. — There are 22 states holding caucuses or primaries this Tuesday, Feb. 5, Super Tuesday. But when Minnesota Republicans vote at their precinct caucuses, the results of their presidential straw poll are not binding.
Still, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told reporters that he traveled to Minnesota, because he believes he has a good chance to eventually win many of its GOP delegates.
"My team has devised a strategy which I will not reveal here, which is designed to try and get us a majority of delegates here in Minnesota," Romney said. "I'd like to get them all but I think that might be too optimistic."
Romney was also celebrating a caucus victory Saturday in Maine over his chief Republican rival John McCain. Romney described the results as the people's victory and a harbinger of Tuesday's results.
But much of the momentum nationally and in Minnesota still appears to be with McCain. During a campaign rally at Frauenshuh Inc. in Edina, Minn., Romney reminded several hundred supporters that he differs sharply with McCain on issues, such as campaign finance reform, immigration and taxes.
"Sen. McCain said that the economy is not his strong suit. It is my strong suit, I can tell you that. And I'll go to work to protect American jobs, to strengthen our industry, to keep our tax levels down, to make sure that when we trade around the world we do it on a level playing field," Romney told the group.
On immigration, Romney said that he would focus on stopping illegal immigration.
"I'll make sure immigration works for us with good legal immigration. I'll stop illegal immigration," Romney said.
Romney said a strong America means strengthening the economy, the military and the family. He pushed those conservative themes hard to again contrast himself from McCain, who he claimed is pulling the Republican party to the left.
"I want to keep our party in the house that Ronald Reagan built. I believe that bringing together all three branches of conservatism -- social conservatives, economic conservatives, foreign policy conservatives -- that that's the way we win the White House," Romney said. "I don't think we win the White House by getting as close to Hillary Clinton as we can without being Hillary Clinton."
Many Romney supporters waited in the office building courtyard for nearly two hours to hear the candidate's 10 minute stump speech. For Sandra Erickson of St. Paul, Romney has everything she's looking for in a candidate.
"I think that most of his views are fairly conservative. I think he's a lot more conservative than McCain. I'm looking for the most conservative person at this point. And I guess with the field being what it is, I think Romney is most conservative of what's available," Erickson said.
A similar analysis came from Pat Lorch of Lino Lakes, Minn., who had supported Republican Fred Thompson before he dropped out of the race. Lorch describes Romney as the best conservative still standing.
"I think he is a fiscal conservative. I believe he's a social conservative. And I believe he can keep us strong on defense and make sure we win the war on terror," Lorch said.
Minnesota campaign organizers say they hoped the enthusiasm of the campaign rally translates into a strong showing Tuesday night at the Republican precinct caucuses.
Before the speech, Romney attended a private fundraiser at another Edina location. Romney's wife Ann will be in Minnesota Sunday to attend two campaign events in private homes.