Thursday, 4:30 PM
Romney fund-raising blitz nets more than $1 million
(George Rizer/Globe Staff)
Former Governor Mitt Romney (left) picked up more than $1 million during a national fundraiser today for his presidential run in 2008. Sharing a laugh beside him were his wife Ann Romney (center) and Missouri Governor Matt Blunt (right).
By Scott Helman, Globe Staff
Mitt Romney easily surpassed his goal for a day-long presidential fund-raiser early this afternoon as an aide announced at a star-studded phone-a-thon that the group had collected more than $1 million.
Romney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden made the announcement at about 12:30 p.m. at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, where 400 of the former governorís biggest supporters from around the country are soliciting money in a cavernous, high-tech call center.
Earlier in the day, his campaign didn't directly answer a reporter's question about whether it had deliberately set a low target so the day would come off as an overwhelming success. Romney is hoping the one-day push will demonstrate his fund-raising prowess, and, thus, his viability as a 2008 Republican presidential candidate.
"You guys today are my hope, I gotta be honest with you," Romney told the roomful of friends, backers, family members, and former associates. "What you're doing is going to make all the difference in the world."
Romney's campaign has taken over the third floor of the convention center, packing the giant exhibition hall with tables topped with black phones and laptops. A quiet murmur fills the room. Hanging from the ceiling are four giant TV screens showing a photo slideshow with scenes from Romney's life.
At the lead table is former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, who alternates between making phone calls and checking his BlackBerry. Seated to his right is Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, a key political supporter of Romney's campaign. To Weld's left is Bob White, a former business colleague and one of Romney's closest friends, who, while on the phone, can be seen pacing and gesturing forcefully with his hands. His nametag says, simply, "Bob."
Also at the table is former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and her husband, Sean. By 11:30, Kerry Healey said, the couple had raised about $80,000. "We're going to do our best to make sure that Mitt has the best send-off possible," Healey said.
"His name is Mitt Romney," a man says loudly into a cell phone at a nearby table.
The highly choreographed event is designed to build momentum for Romney's nascent candidacy in the media and among his stable of supporters. When Romney and his wife, Ann, walked into the room this morning, the Supertramp anthem "Give a Little Bit" (as covered by the Goo Goo Dolls) was blaring through loudspeakers. Supporters gave them a rousing ovation.
Flanked by four of his sons, Romney said that he had asked every immediate family member over Christmas whether he should explore a presidential run, and that every one counseled him to do it. He said he was considering running out of a concern that his grandchildren might not know the American dream that he did.
"I'm convinced that with the right leadership and being honest with the American people, they will rise to the occasion ... to make America a more prosperous and safe place," Romney said.
Romney is trying to get as many people as possible today to pledge the same amount his sister did -- $2,100, the maximum donation permitted under federal campaign finance rules.
All the callers have tapped into an Internet-based database built by Romney's campaign that they're calling ComMitt, which allows fund-raisers to log donations and access information about Romney's positions on various issues.
"This is the most advanced technology ever employed in a fund-raising effort," Romney said in his opening remarks.
The idea, according to Spencer Zwick, Romney's finance director, is for his supporters to make calls from their own contact lists -- Christmas card lists, for example -- not to be handed a list of names to cold call.
"While you see every one person here at the phone what's behind them ... [are] legions of other people and other supporters that they've worked with," said Madden, Romney campaign spokesman. "There's kind of a viral organizing effect to an event like this."
Other supporters who are not here are also soliciting money for Romney today, according to his campaign. Zwick said the goal is to get both firm pledges and "hard money."
Ann Romney also spoke briefly this morning, telling the group how "touched" she and her husband were to see everyone here.
"Mitt and I walked in this room and were absolutely overwhelmed," she said.
One Romney's top advisers, Tom Rath, an influential Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire, told reporters this morning that any serious presidential candidate must raise between $60 million and $75 million in 2007. Much of that work has to be done in the first six to eight months, he said, before the candidate is too busy doing political events in key primary states to headline many fund-raisers.
Rath said the first indication of how Romney and the other candidates are faring in terms of fund-raising will be a Federal Election Commission campaign finance filing at the end of the first quarter, in late March.
"Early money is really the mother's milk to these things," Rath said. "It's never early enough and it's never enough."
Zwick added, "Money talks, but early money screams."
Romney's rivals for the Republican nomination at this point include Arizona Senator John McCain, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.