Mitt Romney’s Fundraising Pitch: What He Tells High Rollers Behind Closed Doors

By Eliza

Jul 21, 2011 6:00am

gty mitt romney fundraising nt 110701 wb Mitt Romney’s Fundraising Pitch: What He Tells High Rollers Behind Closed Doors

ABC News' Shushannah Walshe reports (@shushwalshe) reports:

Mitt Romney was back in New York City Tuesday evening trying to reel in more cash for his campaign, holding top dollar events at The Pierre and the Mandarin Oriental hotels at events hosted by a banking exec and a banking heir.

Romney raised $18 million dollars in the second quarter swamping his primary rivals, who combined raised less than that.

So what does Romney say to these big money donors to make them fork over their cash and convince them he's going to be the one to face off against President Obama in the general election?

According to a top donor who also has knowledge of the campaign-and was in attendance Tuesday night-said Romney repeated his consistent pitch to the crowd, "Obama was a nice guy and America did something they like to do and that is trust a likable guy, well spoken guy, handsome guy, and well meaning guy, but it turns out he's clueless about handling the sophisticated economics stuff."

According to the donor Romney added, "Obama has never had a business job, never had to lead an organization. Never, not once."

But his pitch also veers away from what he says on the stump. When Romney gets into the room with potential donors trying to lure them to his campaign, he's consistently asked how he's going to win.  According to several donors, Romney tells the crowd that his strategy will work: they will win New Hampshire and Nevada and are hoping to "get lucky" in Iowa and South Carolina. They believe if they win 3 out of those 4 contests they will sail to the nomination. If they only win two they believe they will be one of two candidates left in the race and he'll push his jobs message to victory from that point on and they think he'll have the cash to last, unlike last time.

The same fundraiser says the campaign calls it the “Bob Dole playbook” referring to Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign where he was able to defeat Pat Buchanan. Like in that campaign, the Romney team sees the primary coming down to Romney and an “unelectable hard right counterweight,” which would enable Romney to be victorious.

The same donor, who did not want to be identified discussing the candidate's behind-closed-doors-fundraising message, adds that although Romney almost totally focuses on the economy he also has sharp words for Obama on his foreign policy moves as president including that Obama should have more vocally backed Iran's Green Revolution.

"He really emphasizes that Obama went on his apology tour as soon as he took office and he was bowing to every leader especially in the Middle East because he thought they would appreciate that and be our friends when in fact there has been no impact at all and he thinks the Arab Spring has been one of the greatest missed opportunities for a leader," the top donor relayed.

In public, his critiques of Obama's foreign policy decisions have been made, but not to this detail. Last month at the CNN debate, Romney criticized Obama for not having a "coherent, consistent foreign policy," but to donors this level of detail is part of his regular pitch to them.

Although Romney swamped his Republican opponents in the 2nd quarter fundraising totals, this same donor did acknowledge that his supporters "certainly wanted him to raise more," especially with the expectation that he could raise close to $50 million the last quarter before primary voting begins. But they believe with Mitch Daniels out, Gingrich "imploding," Pawlenty "not getting any traction," Michele Bachmann being "unelectable" that the "whole thing is breaking our way," he said. Romney may not want to take his rivals on yet publicly, but behind closed doors the strategy is being made clear to those raising money for him.

The Romney camp didn’t want to comment specifically on fundraising or strategy, but spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a statement that the campaign is, “proud of all of the support we’ve received for Gov. Romney’s agenda for the country over the failed leadership of President Obama. No candidate in this race can come close to matching Mitt Romney’s 25 years of experience in the real world economy. Because of his unique understanding of the economy, he has made restoring American competitiveness and growing our economy to create good jobs the central goals of his campaign. “

On Tuesday, Romney was feted first by the chairman of the New York State Republican Party, Edward Cox at the home of banking heir Matthew Mellon and his wife Nicole – they live at one of the most luxurious hotels in New York City, The Pierre. Cash from the event actually went to the state party instead of the campaign, but of course that money could always go back into the frontrunner's campaign in donations from the party. The individual price tag to attend the event was a donation of $2,500, the maximum primary contribution.

The next event was at the posh Mandarin Oriental hotel hosted by Barry Bausano, a senior executive at Deutsche Bank. The event was only about an hour with less than a hundred people in attendance and brought in about a "couple hundred thousand dollars," according to donors in attendance. Some big names that have been continuously fundraising for Romney were there including managing director at Barclay's Capital Patrick Durkin, former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead, and former Bush treasury official Emil Henry. One new name described by one donor in attendance as "all in for Mitt" is former Secretary of Commerce from the Bush Administration, Carlos Gutierrez.

Unlike his primary rivals, Romney has kept a very low profile, focusing on fundraising more than grabbing headlines or spending weeks on the stump in early primary and caucus states.  Longtime GOP donor and former ambassador to Australia, Mel Sembler is one of Romney's top fundraisers in Florida and also travels with the candidate to fundraising events across the country, although he was not at the New York events Tuesday night. Sembler says Romney is going to stay focused on going after President Obama and delay attacking his primary rivals "as long as he possibly can." He said his fundraising pitch is focused on what he calls the seven rules of successful economies, which include bringing down corporate tax rates, cooperate more with the private sector and that government "should not be spending more than it takes in." Romney repeated this to the crowd at the Mandarin Oriental.

Romney's donors are of the high-end variety, with most giving the maximum of $2,500, but the one top donor who did not want to be identified said the campaign is not worried that unlike other primary rivals like Michele Bachmann, whose donors have given smaller amounts and can be asked to donate again, a lot of Romney's donors in key states won't be able to be called on again during the primary. He added that Pawlenty's team has come to him complaining the Romney finance team "vacuumed the city clean."

But the Romney fundraiser wasn’t worried –pointing out that the campaign will also be focusing on smaller donors as well as the ones who can make a single donation of $2500.

"We sort of feel like the entire country is our oyster with the $250 gift as opposed to the $2,500 gift. That is all out there for us. We've just hoovered up the quick big money as fast as we can to have a war chest to be able to compete," said the top fundraiser who did not want to be identified said.

But, is the campaign concerned that the former Massachusetts governor will look like he is in the pocket of Wall Street bigwigs at a time those bankers are increasingly unpopular? This fundraiser says no, adding that it's "an occupational hazard of a candidate raising big money. It's par for the course."

Former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley is also another top fundraiser for Romney focusing mostly on his home state of Connecticut. Although Foley wasn't at Tuesday night's event he said he threw a fundraiser for Romney in Greenwich last month that raised about $500,000 dollars. Foley isn't worried that the campaign didn't hit a larger fundraising number last quarter saying he was "surprised how many people were willing to commit" at this time in the campaign. He thinks when the entire field is settled "you'll see a lot fewer people will be sitting on the fence." Like his other top fundraisers, Foley is hoping those donors with big pockets– who may not be enamored or passionate with the field right now — will soon come Romney’s way.

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