Mitt Romney’s money men (and women)

at 06:30 AM ET, 06/07/2011

As he ramps up his 2012 presidential bid, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) has been actively recruiting major donors who did not support him four years ago — with impressive results.

Romney, who collected more than $100 million in 2008, has recruited at least 18 heavy-hitters (or “whales” in the political fundraising parlance) to help him secure the nomination this time around.

“There have been a great number of new individuals that have agreed to be a member of Gov. Romney’s finance leadership team,” said national finance chairman Spencer Zwick. Zwick added that in nearly every case, the new members of the Romney fundraising inner circle have already hosted (or will soon host) an event for the former governor.

The list of new names is loaded with major contributors who backed Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 including: lobbyist Wayne Berman, who served as McCain’s national finance co-chair, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, New York Yankees president Randy Levine, oil magnate Kit Moncrief, philanthropist Mica Mosbacher, former Ambassador to Spain George Argyros and former Ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox.

Romney also has two major donors previously committed to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and his un-pursued campaign — attorneys Dan Dumezich and Bob Grand — as well as two people who had planned to back Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s presidential campaign: Austin Barbour, the nephew of the governor, and Bobbie Kilberg, the president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the 1993 lieutenant governor nominee in Virginia.

Lew Eisenberg, a major GOP money man who served as the co-chairman of the 2008 Republican National Convention, is also on board with Romney, as is Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, who has used his wealth to fund a number of conservative-aligned groups including Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 election.

Perhaps most interestingly, Skybridge Capital managing partner Anthony Scarramucci, a former Obama donor, has signed on with Romney. (Scarramucci was a law school classmate of Obama but engaged in a high profile back-and-forth with the president in a town hall meeting last fall.)

Romney’s roster of new donors comes just weeks after he collected more than $10 million in a single day and is sure to further stoke the notion that he will be in a financial class of his own in the 2012 Republican field.

Of course, that was also the case in 2008 when Romney raised better than $100 million — a total that included almost $45 million of his own money. He lost that race, in a defeat that proves that the candidate who raises and spends the most money — particularly in a primary process where the voter universe is relatively small — is not guaranteed a victory.

But what Romney is clearly hoping for when the 2012 presidential hopefuls report their fundraising totals on July 15 is a total staggering enough to not only cow his rivals, but make clear to fundraising fence-sitters that the time is now to get behind him.

Fundraising, especially in these (still) early days of a national race, is a sign of organization and support — two critical pieces to any winning puzzle. Money tends to beget money, as donors want to be with the person who looks like a winner.

And, perhaps more so than in any previous presidential election, the ability to raise hundreds of millions will be a necessity, given that President Obama is likely to raise somewhere between $750 million and $1 billion for his re-election race. His 2012 campaign team has already set a goal of collecting $60 million by the end of this month.

Romney’s expanded finance team sends a clear message: He is not content to simply replicate the fundraising successes he had in 2008. He wants to push well beyond them. His rivals now need to try to stay within financial shouting distance.

Goolsbee’s exit: White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee’s exit comes at a conspicuous time for President Obama.

Following a weak economic report last Friday — unemployment stood at 9.1 percent in May — Goolsbee was at the forefront of defending Obama on the Sunday talk shows. Just a day later, he's leaving the White House he was defending.

It’s been reported that Goolsbee is leaving to preserve his tenure at the University of Chicago. But these shakeups also tend to occur when there is bad news in a staffer’s particular area of expertise.

Goolsbee maintained Sunday that one economic report should not take precedence over more long-term measures as a sign of trouble. His exit tells another story, at least politically — that the report could be harmful to Obama politically and is an emerging issue in the 2012 presidential race.

Weiner, the political fallout: The bizarre episode that is Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) scandal proves the political maxim that the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

The similarities between Weiner’s flirtation with various women in recent years is easy to compare to the scandal that unseated Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) in recent months.

Lee, of course, had the luxury of knowing the full extent of what was being revealed right away. Weiner, by the slow-drip nature of the revelations, was left to twist in the wind — a fact that he exacerbated, to be fair — and has now suffered what could be irreparable harm.

Politicians can come back from sex scandals. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and even former New York govenor Eliot Spitzer (D) have shown that in recent years. Weiner could have potentially done the same, at least eventually. Now, though, the potential future mayor of New York faces an arduous path — to say the least — to that career goal.

Fixbits:

Florida state Sen. Mike Bennett (R) has filed papers to run against Rep. Kathy Castor (D).

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s (R) student supporters appear to be lining up behind former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (R).

Former Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan is going to former DC schools head Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst group.

The Texas state Senate has approved an aggressive redistricting map in which Republicans seek to expand their advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.

Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who is gay, is pushing for the legalization of gay marriage.

Former congressional candidate Denny Heck (D) is running again in Washington state. But which district? He won’t say yet, given the uncertain nature of Washington’s redistricting process. Heck lost to now-Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) in 2010.

Must-reads:

A quarter-century ago, the Senate was ready for its close-up” — Ben Pershing, The Washington Post

A serious GOP candidate: Jon Huntsman” — Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

More measured prosecutor endeavors to use Blagojevich’s own words against him in cross-exam” — AP

The 10-word question that could cost Obama the election” — Nate Silver, New York Times

 
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