Organizers said Romney, who accepted the invitation last week, will take questions from the crowd. Wes Nakagiri, the chairman of the tea party group, RetakeOurGov, that is hosting the event, said many of the group's members want to "root for the hometown boy" but that most would "prefer somebody else."
"The favored son helps if you are a longtime establishment Republican, knew his father," Nakagiri said. "But it's not going to be the same with people that are newly motivated to get into the process. Tea party people that have gotten into the process in the last two years don't have those relationships and are focused on policy."
There are signs that Romney's campaign has stepped up its outreach to the GOP establishment in the state, a group that he's counting on in the Feb. 28 primary.
After Santorum won contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, tickets for the Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner — he was already booked as the keynote speaker — skyrocketed, according to Jim Thienel, the chairman. Romney's campaign hadn't responded to the party's earlier request to have him address the dinner.
After the Santorum victories, Romney's campaign called to say his wife, Ann, would be glad to attend. She spoke, too. Romney grew up in Bloomfield Hills, which is in Oakland County.
Romney himself has shown confidence that he'll win in Michigan. When asked in interviews earlier this week what would happened if he lost, Romney said, "That won't happen."
Still, supporters are trying to scale back expectations. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette introduced Romney at his Tuesday town hall as "The Comeback Kid."
"We've got a barn burner of a campaign right now here in Michigan," Schuette said, "and Mitt Romney is fighting like an underdog."
Romney left Michigan for Arizona, where he's set to debate his GOP rivals Wednesday night. Arizona also holds its primary Feb. 28. Then he will return to Michigan on Friday to deliver a major economic speech at Ford Field, the NFL football stadium in downtown Detroit.
Romney said Tuesday he'll use the speech to outline his economic plan. He said he will have details on a plan for tax policy, cutting spending and adjusting entitlement programs.
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