Soon after Tim Pawlenty left the stage at the state Republican Party convention Saturday, an activist in the crowd stood up and shouted a question at Chairman Robin Hayes: "Where's Mitt Romney?"
The activist expressed dismay that Romney didn't appear at the event, given the hundreds in attendance from across the state. (Apparently Pawlenty, the Romney campaign national co-chairman, wasn't good enough.) Romney visited the state in April for fundraisers and speech in Charlotte but otherwise hasn't been a consistent presence in North Carolina like his rival, President Barack Obama.
But House Speaker Thom Tillis defended Romney in a conference all Monday. He said voters should expect to see more of the GOP nominee now that the party's prolonged primary has ended.
"I think you are already beginning to see an increased focus on North Carolina," said Tillis, who endorsed Romney on the day of his April visit. "Romney understands that North Carolina is a priority."
Other Romney surrogates, Pawlenty included, call North Carolina a "should win" state for Republicans and suggest an intense focus on winning Tar Heel voters, as is evidenced in the ongoing TV ad wars.