The presumed Republican front-runner, who took a pass on the first party debate last Thursday, has spent his early weeks as an exploratory candidate soliciting pledges in hopes of amassing a war chest that would put him far ahead of his competitors, according to donors, advisers and others close to Romney’s team.
And much of that effort has been targeted at wealthy banking and corporate executives on Wall Street.
The strategy is aimed in part at taking advantage of Wall Street’s dramatic shift away from President Obama and other Democrats, who have angered many business leaders by passing new financial regulations and seeking to raise taxes on certain types of investment income. The approach also means that Romney probably would have far more money than any of his likely Republican primary challengers, none of whom has his deep connections to the financial world.
Romney easily beats other candidates, including Obama, in the proportion of money raised from the financial and banking industry, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. During the 2010 cycle, $4 of every $10 in itemized donations to Romney’s main political action committee came from finance-related companies and their employees, for a total of $1.8 million, the data show.
The list of donors at Romney’s first presidential fundraiser, held April 12 at the Harvard Club of New York City, reads like a who’s who of the Wall Street elite, including Goldman Sachs bankers and independent financiers. Those attending the breakfast meeting included investment banker Lewis M. Eisenberg, who served as finance chairman for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and hedge-fund king John Paulson, who shattered records in 2010 by earning $5 billion in a single year.
The contributions fit with an emerging strategy by the Romney campaign to focus its message on the candidate’s long business career, including his roles as co-founder of Bain Capital, one of the nation’s largest private-equity firms, and as head of the profitable 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In announcing his exploratory committee last month, Romney said that “President Obama’s policies have failed” because of a lack of business experience.
“He and virtually all the people around him have never worked in the real economy,” the former Massachusetts governor said in a video message. “They just don’t know how jobs are created in the private sector. That’s where I spent my entire career.”
Another former Massachusetts governor, William Weld, who was host of the April 12 fundraiser, said Romney’s business background “comes across loud and clear when he meets with people in a fundraising context” and added: “He knows how to speak the language of people in the business community.”