MESA, Ariz. -- Arizona's Presidential Preference Election is not for two weeks, but the man considered the front-runner is not leaving anything to chance. Mitt Romney will be in Mesa Monday evening to court Republican voters.
Romney's Arizona trip comes on the heels of back-to-back wins in Maine's caucuses and the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington.
According to the latest numbers from Rasmussen Reports™, Romney has a strong lead -- 48 percent of the vote -- in Arizona. Newt Gingrich trails him by 24 percent and Rick Santorum is a distant third with 13 percent.
Arizona's Presidential Preference Election is a winner-take-all election. Because Arizona is considered a key state in the GOP race, voters can expect to see some intense ad campaigns, as well as quite a bit of stumping in the coming weeks.
One of the criticisms Romney has faced is that he is not conservative enough.
"I think that's erroneous. I don't know where they get that perception," said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is part of the Romney campaign. "As governor of Massachusetts, he turned that state around. I think he can turn the economy of our country around.
"When he was governor of Massachusetts, during four years, he vetoed over 800 pieces of legislation from a Democrat-dominated Legislature," Bennett continued. "If he was some fake conservative or just some moderate trying to pretend now to be a conservative, why would he have vetoed over 800 pieces of legislation?"
Romney, who was here in December, will host a grassroots early-vote rally at Mesa Amphitheatre at 5:30 p.m. Thousands are expected to attend.
But it's not just supporters who will be on hand. Those who support the Dream Act plan to rally outside the Romney event.
Romney will be back in Mesa on Feb. 22 for a live debate that will be streamed here on azfamily.com and televised on both 3TV and CNN.
Early voting in Arizona's Presidential Preference Election began Feb. 2. Election Day is Feb. 28.