LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A visit by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and a video speech by presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, are aimed at building excitement among 2,500 Michigan Republicans gathering in Detroit for this weekend's state convention.
Party activists will gather Friday night and Saturday at Cobo Center to choose delegates and alternates to the Aug. 25-30 Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla. Not all of the delegates will have voting rights since Michigan Republicans have been stripped of half their votes because they held their presidential primary before March 6.
Romney won 16 delegates in the Feb. 28 contest, while former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won 14. Santorum has since dropped out, and those spots will go to uncommitted delegates who don't have to vote for Romney on the first ballot at the convention. However, their choices at the convention will be limited to those nominated, so it's unclear whether anyone besides Romney will be available to get their votes.
Supporters of Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who's still in the race, are expected to vie for the uncommitted delegate spots. Romney supporters will fill the 16 spots he won in February. Most of the delegates will be chosen Friday night, where Romney supporters will be elected in the seven congressional districts he won and uncommitted delegates will be elected in the seven districts he lost. Two at-large delegates Romney gained for winning the state overall will be elected by voice vote Saturday morning, Michigan GOP spokesman Matt Frendewey said.
Romney remains about 150 delegates shy of the 1,144 he needs to lock up the GOP nomination, but he's expected to have enough by the end of the month. Rivals Pawlenty, Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman have dropped out of the race. Paul said this week that he's not going to campaign anymore, although he's still collecting delegates where he can.
Pawlenty now is campaigning for Romney. He's expected to visit with delegates at the Friday caucuses and again during Saturday's convention, Romney campaign officials said. Ann Romney — who, like her husband, grew up in Michigan — will speak to the convention Saturday morning in a video address geared toward the state. No Republican has won Michigan's electoral votes since George H.W. Bush in 1988, but Romney is hoping his ties to the state and his late father George's reputation as an auto executive and governor will help him carry the state this fall.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also will address the convention, along with Gov. Rick Snyder, state GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Other Republican elected officials and candidates will use the forum to become better known to potential voters and build their bases of support. The party faces what could be a contentious five-way Aug. 7 primary among candidates eager for the chance to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Frendewey said Democrats didn't field an opponent against U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland in Michigan's 2nd Congressional District and just lost state Rep. Roy Schmidt of Grand Rapids, who switched parties this week to run for re-election as a Republican.
"We're excited that we've got a candidate in every single House seat and every single congressional race," Frendewey told The Associated Press. "It just demonstrates the enthusiasm Republicans have going into this election cycle."
The most contentious moments during the convention could come when Republican National Committee members Saul Anuzis and Holly Hughes try to hold off challengers Saturday in their re-election bids. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is running to replace Hughes, a state representative from Montague. Anuzis, who was once the state GOP chairman, faces two opponents, state Rep. David Agema of Grandville and blogger and party activist G.J. LaRouche.