Printed on: March 20, 2014

Romney visits I.F.

Romney back on campaign trail -- as a supporter

By AUBREY WIEBER
awieber@postregister.com

The theme was conservatism as the "president of Idaho" took the stage.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, made a Wednesday evening appearance at Riverbend Ranch to endorse the re-elections of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson.

More than 200 supporters of the candidates and Romney fans turned out for the event.

Romney is no stranger to eastern Idaho, where he received strong support in his presidential bid. In March 2012, he was warmly received during a campaign stop at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls.

At Riverbend Ranch, Otter, Risch and Simpson all made mention of the overwhelming support Romney received from Ida-

hoans in his bid for the presidency. So did Frank VanderSloot, the owner of Riverbend Ranch and CEO of Melaleuca Inc., the Idaho Falls-based health care products company.

"More money came from Idaho to Mitt Romney than any other (presidential) candidate in the history of the state," VanderSloot said.

VanderSloot himself donated $1 million to the cause. He also served as a finance co-chairman for the national Romney campaign. It was VanderSloot who introduced Romney as the president of Idaho. The remark drew raucous cheers from the audience.

Romney told the enthusiastic crowd that by endorsing Otter, Risch and Simpson, he was returning a favor for their support of his campaign.

"Butch Otter, Mike Simpson and Jim Risch are conservative to the core," Romney said. "What Butch Otter is doing in Idaho is good for the people and should be emulated by political leaders across the country."

Among those who turned out for the event was 71-year-old Michelle Woodland, who said she voted for Romney in 2012. Woodland, who made the drive from Pocatello, said she was glad to see Romney make the endorsements.

"He's honest," she said. "He's not just talking -- he supports Idaho."

For Matt and Megan Urick, getting a chance to see Romney was something that couldn't be passed up. The young couple said they are avid supporters of conservatives and donated to the Republican Party in 2012.

"It was fantastic," Matt said. "We are just big fans of Mitt."

Simpson, who is facing a stiff challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith in the 2nd Congressional District, said he was honored by Romney's endorsement.

"Obviously, it's very important to me to have Mitt Romney out here," Simpson said. "He's one of the most respected individuals in this country, particularly here in Idaho."

Later, as each of the candidates took a turn at the podium, the same message was echoed: Conservatives have the answers to stem the nation's five-year downward spiral.

Risch said he was proud to be labeled the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate. Simpson took credit for removing wolves from the endangered species list and Otter reminded the crowd that he's reduced the state budget every year since he took office.

While Romney said he wasn't of the same conservative ilk as Otter, Risch and Simpson, he said the mutual endorsements show they are on the same side.

"The country depends upon it, Idaho depends upon it and your good fortune depends upon electing Butch Otter, Jim Risch and Mike Simpson," he said.

Reporter Aubrey Wieber can be reached at 542-6755.