Even on Democratic turf, GOP's Romney has cachet

Denver – We are holding this week's Monitor breakfasts and lunches at the historic Brown Palace Hotel in the heart of Denver's thriving downtown.

Rest assured the Monitor team is not sleeping at the Brown Palace. I was quoted a price of $600 a night. Putting that on a Monitor expense account would have brought my career with the paper to a quick end.

The gracious Denver landmark, the first atrium-style hotel built in the US, is filled with Democratic notables during the Democratic National Convention. As I was waiting for the elevator Tuesday morning, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright passed by and Washington super-lawyer and power broker Vernon Jordan stood in animated conversation with a friend.

While the hotel is filled with Obama forces, Republican surrogate Mitt Romney still caused a stir when he arrived at 11:30 Tuesday morning for a Monitor lunch with roughly 40 reporters. People standing in the lobby followed after him and called his name. News photographers snapped photos. Network crews milled outside the Onyx Room, where our meeting with him was being held.

After losing to John McCain in the Republican primaries, Mr. Romney is here in Denver as part of a Republican operation to make sure the cable networks have a handy McCain spokesman to help fill the hours devoted to the convention.

Romney is impressive in his dealings with reporters. Not only is the former Massachusetts governor articulate, but he looks like a candidate sent over by central casting – with full shock of thick black hair and a suit that looks as if it were molded to his body. The need to keep fitting into that suit may be why he always passes on the meals we serve at our events.

The Romney family has a long association with the Monitor breakfasts. Michigan Gov. George Romney, Mitt's dad, was the guest at the third Monitor breakfast, which took place in January 1967. In July 1994, Mitt and his dad spoke at the same session, the only breakfast to feature a father-son duo in the 42 years our paper has been holding these sessions.

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