GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The nearly 3,000 Republican activists gathered yesterday for their state convention listened enthusiastically to former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, as well as the surrogates speaking for Senator John McCain of Arizona and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
But the tension among the camps -- especially between supporters of McCain and Romney -- was clear as they fought over who would win spots for youth chairman and congressional district leaders.
Michigan is a crucial state for Romney, who hopes to build on ties to his native state, where his father, George, was governor from 1963 to 1969.
McCain is hoping for the surge in popularity that propelled him to a win in 2000 over George W. Bush, governor of Texas at the time, in the Michigan primary.
Romney reminded the crowd that he grew up sharing the Automotive News each morning with his father, who headed American Motors Corp. before he became governor. He said his father brought many of the lessons he learned from business to the governorship.
"He got Michigan moving again," Romney said, before describing his stands opposing abortion, favoring the restriction of marriage to a man and a woman, and backing controls on illegal immigration. "It's time for Republican principles to come back to Michigan again."
Brownback, who is running as the conservative heart of the party but opposes President Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, got a warm reception with his pledges to protect life and the traditional family.
He also called for wiping out cancer in 10 years and for putting more resources into alternative energy.
"Michigan is going to be a key state in getting that done," he said, noting its efforts to encourage the production of ethanol and biodiesel.
Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a national co chairman of McCain's campaign, spoke on behalf of the Arizona senator. He said Republicans can't win swing states like Michigan and Minnesota by appealing only to Republican voters, and said McCain has proved he can pull in independents.
"You've got to have a candidate who's not only true to our party and principles, but who can win the election," he said. "In 2008, if we're going to be the successful party, we have to win in states like Michigan. . . . The Upper Midwest is going to be critical."
He said McCain is the only GOP candidate who brings experience in the military and domestic and foreign affairs to the race.
But Representative Candice S. Miller, speaking on Giuliani's behalf, said Giuliani showed on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days and weeks afterward, that he has what it takes to keep the country safe in a dangerous world.
Americans "trust his judgment," the congresswoman from Macomb County's Harrison Township said. "Nobody will ever forget his calm and determined leadership."
She acknowledged that not everyone would approve of Giuliani's support for abortion rights, but said he reduced crime significantly, tackled welfare reform, and reduced taxes 23 times while he was mayor.
"That is conservative leadership," she said, adding, that "If we need to have a candidate we agree with 100 percent . . . there is no such person."
Giuliani was on a fund-raising trip to California yesterday, meeting Republican activists at a state party convention in Sacramento. Tomorrow, he will speak to executives in the Silicon Valley.
On Tuesday, he will stop at an agricultural exposition near Fresno.