“I think the best candidate to beat Barack Obama and to restore confidence in the United States of America is Mitt Romney and that’s why I’m here,” McDonnell told reporters after a rally with Romney in North Charleston on Friday. “I hope a lot of people come on board right now and let’s get this done and start focusing on the general election.”
Prominent bundlers — including John McCain’s 2008 finance chairman Fred V. Malek, who had been unaligned, and former Bush ambassador David Wilkins, a leading supporter — joined the Romney campaign in recent weeks, giving him a new network of fundraisers who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for past presidential nominees.
One of the big questions after Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s withdrawal has been whether his large stable of donors and endorsees would follow Perry’s lead and support former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Romney aides are not automatically surrendering that ground. On Friday, Romney announced the backing of three congressmen from the Lone Star state and his fundraisers are wooing hundreds of Perry’s top Texas donors.
“The logic of his candidacy is very powerful and suggests, yes, he’s gonna be the nominee,” said former senator Jim Talent of Missouri. “The people who know what it takes to run for an office like this, I think, have become increasingly convinced that he has the ability to do it — that he can win and that he can govern afterwards. It’s also increasingly obvious that the others that are left are not in a position to do that.”
Talent, a close Romney adviser, said one of the campaign’s fundraisers in California called him Friday morning to say he had recruited five Perry donors there. And in Texas, Talent said, “I don’t think they’re gonna move to Newt. . . . I’ve talked to people down there who say we’re going out to get them now.”
Still, many party establishment figures remain on the sidelines — among them, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who decided against a run last spring and is slated to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s “State of the Union” address next week.
Aides to Gingrich sounded unimpressed with the Romney effort. Asked about Romney’s gathering of establishment support, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond replied with a short e-mail: “Hasn’t done much so far.”
Gingrich received new endorsements boosts Friday, picking up support from movie star Chuck Norris and Michael Reagan, a conservative talk show host and son of former President Reagan.