By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney raised $6.5 million for his presidential exploratory committee yesterday, sending a powerful message to his potential opponents about the seriousness of his bid for the Republican nomination.
Romney gathered about 400 of his largest financial backers for an all-day call-a-thon at the Boston convention center. The group included politicians such as Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld and former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, as well as deep-pocketed fundraisers such as Utah billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., eBay chief executive Meg Whitman and Tennessee money man Ted Welch.
The politicos and fundraisers hit up friends and colleagues, and many of them wrote their own checks to contribute to the day's total. Less than four hours into the effort, Romney had surpassed his goal of raising $1 million; 90 minutes later, he announced that more than $2.5 million had been collected and urged callers to "keep on dialing for dollars." The day's total included actual contributions and what a Romney spokesman called "signed pledges."
Romney has said he hopes to raise $100 million in 2007 to support his presidential aspirations. An internal campaign document for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, which a rival campaign leaked to the media last week, set the same goal. By comparison, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush collected $69 million in 1999 for his campaign.
That gap speaks to the increasingly high fundraising bar that a candidate must clear to be taken seriously in the 2008 sweepstakes. With such high-powered fundraisers as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) likely to run, Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner estimated recently that the 2008 race could cost as much as $1 billion.
Alex Vogel, a Republican lobbyist not affiliated with any of the potential candidates, described Romney's one-day haul as an attempt at "shock and awe," adding that the former governor is seeking to quickly dispose of questions about whether he can raise the money to be competitive with McCain and Giuliani in the primaries.
In some ways, Romney's dynamic day of cash collection is not terribly surprising because of the variety of connections he has built. He has ties to the business world, having been a top executive at the Boston-based consulting firm Bain & Co. After four years as governor and two years as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Romney boasts deep roots in the GOP giving community. And his stewardship of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 gave him access to a group of nonpolitical donors.
While the Romney campaign touted its huge one-day total, the planning for the event had been going on for some time.
Participants gathered for dinner Sunday night and after breakfast yesterday before they began their calls. Each person was supplied a laptop computer and given access to new sales-based software, known as ComMitt, developed for Romney's presidential exploratory committee.
"In a presidential campaign, it's one thing to talk about your organizational strength but it's another to showcase it," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.