Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is planning a return trip to Virginia next month, now has four full-time paid staffers in the swing state.
The staffers’ main task -- at the moment anyway -- is to help the former Massachusetts governor collect the thousands of signatures he needs to appear on the ballot in March.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, chairman of Romney’s Virginia campaign, said that the staffers are being assisted by his political operation as well as College Republicans across the state.
We also hear Romney will be in Richmond in December for a fundraiser, but Bolling declined to comment on future trips.
Romney appears to be the first Republican presidential candidate with paid staffers in Virginia. Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign is also using College Republicans to collect signatures before next month’s deadline.
Candidates have until Dec. 22 to collect 10,000 from across the state and another 400 from each congressional district.
“It’s not my impression they have to go through this type of process in other places,’’ Bolling said. “That’s why they have placed so many resources here.’’
In contrast, President Obama’s re-election has more than a dozen staffers in every region of the state, including Northern Virginia, some of whom have been here two years through Organizing for America.
Romney was last in Virginia in October to rally Republican volunteers in Fairfax County before last week’s legislative elections. He was joined by Bolling and Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, who has not endorsed anyone in the the presidential race.
“I think there’s starting to be a consensus that Mitt’s the most electable candidate,’’ Bolling said. “Some of these candidates have gone up and gone down. They’ve had this problem and they’ve had that problem. He’s very steady throughout the process.”
Romney, considered the national frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has been in Virginia several times this year for fundraisers, including one at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner and an event in Virginia Beach hosted by Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach).
He held a fundraiser last month at the McLean home of Bobbie Kilberg, a major Republican supporter who heads the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Kilberg said about 400 people attended the event, which raised more than $362,000 for Romney’s campaign.
Bolling said Romney was the first person to call and congratulate him Wednesday after it became clear that the elections gave Republicans a majority in the state Senate and Bolling a new elevated role.
“I think more and more people are going to realize Romney is probably going to be the nominee,’’ Bolling said. “It’s just some people take a little longer to warm up to the fact.’’