HAMILTON — Republican Mitt Romney became the first presidential candidate to visit Montana on Wednesday evening, raising money in a state he is expected to win with little effort.
Romney gave donors what has become his standard stump speech at the picturesque Daly Mansion, receiving a much warmer reception than he did earlier in the day when he delivered the remarks to an NAACP convention.
"When I mentioned I was going to get rid of Obamacare, they didn't like that," Romney said in Montana of boos he received earlier in Houston. "That is fine, I want people to know what I stand for. If they don't want to cut Obamacare then they have to give me something else to cut."
Romney gave the crowd a familiar message, promising energy development in order to lower energy costs and more international trade deals in hopes of spurring business growth. There were also plenty of crowd-pleasing jabs at President Barack Obama.
"He is out of ideas, and he is out of excuses and in November, we are going to get him out of office," Romney said to applause. "The course I will set is dramatically different than the course he has set."
The Romney campaign said that 220 tickets were sold between a reception that cost $2,500 to attend and a dinner that cost $25,000. Donors could also get a photo taken with the former Massachusetts governor for $5,000.
The event was sponsored by Charles Schwab, the brokerage house founder and a part-time Montana resident. Attendees included several state legislators, attorney general candidate Tim Fox, Montana GOP luminaries like former governor Tim Babcock, familiar state Republican supporters and others.
Backers said they expect Romney will carry the state in November.
"We are just thrilled and excited to have Mitt in Montana. He is obviously trying to let us know how important Montana is," said Romney's state political chairman, Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork. "We are really excited about it."
Obama has not campaigned in the state since 2008, when he spent an unusually large amount of money in Montana and established a statewide campaign apparatus. The Democrat visited Montana several times then but still fell short of John McCain 49.5 percent to 47.1 percent, even though the Republican never campaigned in Montana.
A Democrat running for president has only twice carried the state since 1948. The last time a Democrat won was 1992, when Bill Clinton received a boost from third-party candidate Ross Perot who helped siphon some of the Republican vote.
Romney had similar fundraising trips in Sun Valley, Idaho, the day before the Montana event, and one in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the following day.
Planned Parenthood of Montana was protesting the event, arguing the Republican has taken increasingly extreme positions on funding for the organization and birth control options.