Romney holds rally in Mesa ahead of Feb. 28 vote

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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann, enter a caucus day rally at the Temple for Performing Arts, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) By Charlie Neibergall Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann, enter a caucus day rally at the Temple for Performing Arts, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) By Charlie Neibergall

MESA, Ariz. -- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was in Mesa to rally voters on Monday, two weeks ahead of Arizona's Presidential Preference Election.

Romney was greeted with enthusiastic chants of "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!" and spoke for about 20 minutes before a crowd of more than 2,000, delivering what was for the most part a standard stump speech.

A crowd of several hundred lined up hours before the rally outside of the Mesa Amphitheater, where a vendor selling Romney collectible buttons for $5 each was doing brisk business.

Romney's appearance in Arizona came on the same day a new poll by the Pew Research Center showed Romney's opponent former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the lead, particularly among conservative voters.

Romney clearly touted his conservative credentials during the rally.

"My conservatism did not come so much from reading the writings of conservative scholars as it came from living my life, my family, my faith, my business," he said. "Let's not nominate someone who hasn't done anything, and who has not been a leader."

Supporter Nancy Farnsworth and her husband drove from Tuscon with their two daughters to see Romney speak.

"We like what he stands for. We also like Rick Santorum, but we like [Romney's] private sector experience," Farnsworth said. He also urged his supporters to vote for him and to encourage family and friends to do the same: "I really need your vote. I ask for your vote.''

Romney's message was very well received by the crowd but at times protesters could be heard chanting outside of the event.

A group of about a dozen Dream Act supporters chanted "Veto Romney, not the Dream Act!"

Romney has vowed to veto the Dream Act is elected president.

A small group of Ron Paul protesters also demonstrated outside. One was handcuffed by Mesa police after refusing to follow orders and stay on the sidewalk.

Romney's aides say he plans to leave the Valley on Tuesday.

His opponents plan their own Arizona visits in the coming weeks.

The Maricopa County Republican Committee announced Rick Santorum will speak at their "Lincoln Day Lunch" on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

A representative from the Ron Paul campaign said he will hold an event on Feb. 23, and staff for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said details for his visit are still in the works.

Arizona's Presidential Preference Election is on Feb. 28. Early voting is already under way.

On Feb. 23 the candidates will face off in a debate at the Mesa Center for the Arts.That debate will be streamed live on azfamily.com and broadcast on both 3TV and CNN.