“The tide is turning in Mitt’s favor,” said Bobbie Kilberg, a top fundraiser from Virginia. “There’s a real sense here that he can win, and it’s not just that people are being Pollyannaish. You can feel it in the air. . . .This place is full of kinetic energy.”
This weekend’s “Romney Victory Leadership Retreat” marked both the culmination of Romney’s intense and relentless personal cultivation of political benefactors and an official coming-together of GOP forces after a bruising primary season.
Romney’s wealthy supporters called the retreat the second-most important event on the summer calendar, behind the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Romney’s high command decamped here from Boston to rub elbows with top-flight donors, including the normally reclusive campaign manager Matt Rhoades and senior adviser Beth Myers, who is leading Romney’s confidential vice presidential search.
The roughly 800 guests, who each contributed $50,000 or raised at least $100,000 for the campaign, reveled in unfettered access not only to Romney and his family — Ann Romney gathered the women guests for an afternoon tea — but also to many Republicans who could play important roles in his administration.
Among them were a handful of vice presidential prospects, including Sen. John Thune (S.D.), who shared pizza and posed for pictures with donors at a hotel bar Friday night, as well as Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
There were other Republican luminaries here as well, including Karl Rove, who runs the super PAC American Crossroads and held court at the five-diamond Stein Eriksen Lodge, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the party’s 2008 nominee.
Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice delivered a 15-minute luncheon speech on foreign and domestic policy Saturday that donors described as electrifying and had attendees on their feet twice. One donor said Rice was “the star of the show,” while another said that, if it was a vice presidential tryout, “she hit it out of the park.”
The retreat, said Peter A. Wish, a Florida doctor, was “a combination of celebrating and cheering along with meeting with people who potentially could have a big impact in the administration.” Wish enjoyed lunch Friday on a sun-drenched patio alone with Michael Chertoff, a Romney adviser and former secretary of Homeland Security.