Fundraisers for Mitt Romney said that the front-runner's narrow victory in Tuesday's Iowa caucus would help them raise money from potential donors who weren't completely convinced that the former Massachusetts governor was the Republican Party's best bet.
Though Romney beat a resurgent Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes Tuesday night, fundraisers said Wednesday that he performed better than he was expected to a few weeks ago. Romney called fundraisers on Monday to talk about the caucus, and he predicted that he'd "do very well there," according to Larry Finder, a fundraiser on the call.
Romney's campaign began reaching out to fundraisers hours after the final Iowa results were known. Bundlers were dialed in to both a national finance call and state calls Wednesday morning, according to a fundraiser on the receiving end. The campaign also planned to fly major supporters to New Hampshire for a victory party the day after the state's Tuesday primary, which Romney is expected to win, and talk to them in Boston the next day about organizing, said the fundraiser, who requested that he not be named.
The campaign also turned its attention to Texas, a major source of Republican fundraising, as Rick Perry announced that he was returning to his home state to reassess his campaign in light of his poor performance in Iowa.
"We started conversations this morning with regard to picking up some of Rick's previous backers," Fred Zeidman, a Romney fundraiser in Houston, said Wednesday. Those plans were scrapped, though, when Perry announced he would compete in South Carolina's primary this month.
Outside of Texas, fundraisers said they were confident that Romney's Iowa win - a paper-thin one but a victory nonetheless - would help close the deal for wealthier people who wanted to write checks for Romney but hesitated to do so before 2012.
"He has the best chance of beating President Obama, and he had a very good showing in Iowa, and people ought to put their money on his nose, because he's got the best chance of winning and that's what this is all about, winning," said Jim Nicholson, a former Republican National Committee chairman who works for Romney's campaign.
Slater Bayliss, a fundraiser in Florida who had backed Tim Pawlenty, described a group of "business and serial donors" who hadn't yet committed to a candidate but who would now view Romney as the best pick because of his Iowa performance.
"There are self-styled moderates throughout the country who haven't had a home, and I think Mitt Romney gives them that home," Bayliss said.
"He'll have greater credibility," said Finder, a Houston lawyer. "People say, 'Even if we don't agree with everything he says, he's the best alternative to Obama.' "
Romney has succeeded in persuading Republican voters that he's more electable than his rivals. In Iowa on Tuesday, one-third of voters said the most important trait for the Republican nominee is the ability to beat Obama, and Romney was the favorite among that group, according to surveys from the caucus.