Joe Arpaio. (David Fahrenthold, Washington Post)

A few dozen yards from the podium, Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio was holding court in the aisle. A controversial figure who is revered by many conservatives for his aggressive crackdowns on illegal immigrants, Arpaio was wearing a tie tack in the shape of a handgun.

The sheriff said he'd had a busy primary season, as candidates sought his advice about immigration: Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Ariz.) visited his office, he spent two days with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and he talked to Romney by phone, but not recently. Arpaio said Wednesday he thought Romney had the right ideas about immigration and believed that Romney might end a federal investigation of his department. 

"I'd be more confident with him, because I do have the federal government investigating me," he said. "This is a political thing, and they (the Obama Administration) are using illegal immigration as a political tool." 

After this reporter walked away, Arpaio posed for pictures with other delegates. Afterward, one walked away to watch the crowd around the sheriff. "The next Attorney General," the delegate said to a companion.