SALT LAKE CITY – Three potential GOP presidential candidates are expected to attend a private retreat in Utah next week hosted by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The "Experts and Enthusiasts" event set for Thursday and Friday in Park City will attract New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as well as some 200 Romney supporters.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, told the Deseret News that the gathering will give the three Republicans a chance to stand out.
"I know Romney would never pose this as an audition," he said, but the performance of the trio of potential candidates during the closed-door meetings "will make big impressions on Mitt and everybody else in the room."
Those missing from the retreat include Sen. Mario Rubio of Florida, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Jowers said it's unclear who may have been asked to participate but was either unable or unwilling to attend.
"The big mystery was who was invited and who declined," he said of the closely guarded guest list.
Only invitees received an email detailing the "variety of unique industry, political and thought leaders" coming to the retreat. It will cost $5,000, a fee intended only to cover expenses.
Also attending will be corporate and academic leaders and even some Democrats, including President Barack Obama's strategist, David Axelrod, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, said of the three Republicans attending the retreat, Paul may be the closest to running. Paul recently made several appearances in Iowa, traditionally the first state to vote in presidential races.
Hagle said while the opportunity to woo supporters at the retreat "could be important," he does not think it's "essential" since it's so early in the election cycle that it's far from certain who will end up in the race.