Republican Mitt Romney, who defended the management of his campaign even as he trails President Barack Obama in swing states, spent yesterday raising money in California, which hasn’t supported his party’s nominee in almost a quarter-century.
Speaking to donors in Del Mar, a town near his beachfront house in La Jolla, Romney said his presidential campaign is “nonstop.”
“We’re just coming to town to see you and keep the campaign going,” he told 650 donors at a lunch in a hotel ballroom.
With less than seven weeks left in the presidential campaign, Romney is facing criticism from fellow Republicans who say he needs to spend more time speaking to voters in battleground states such as Virginia.
Romney spent much of the past week wooing top donors at at least a dozen fundraisers in private estates, hotel ballrooms, and casinos. Yesterday, he made his way past an AC Cobra, a vintage racing car that sells for as much as $10 million, to address donors outside San Diego and mingled with celebrities such as comedian Dennis Miller at a fundraiser in Los Angeles.
The campaign plans to increase the pace of the public schedule with an event today in Denver, followed by a three-day bus tour through Ohio with running-mate Paul Ryan and stops in Virginia later in the week.
The Colorado event is a change from the original schedule, which had Romney spending this weekend at his home in La Jolla.
At the same time, the Romney campaign is facing heightened pressure to fill its coffers. Last month, its fundraising totals trailed Obama’s for the first time in four months. Obama raised $84.8 million in August, while Romney took in $66.6 million and borrowed an additional $20 million secured by general-election campaign donations -- most already in the bank -- to pay expenses until he officially became his party’s nominee at the convention.
Between Romney fundraising events in mansions overlooking Biscayne Bay, Florida, and a Las Vegas steakhouse, where Las Vegas Sands Corp. casino owner Sheldon Adelson commandeered a front-row seat, aides sandwiched into the schedule five public events.
The courtship of big donors comes as Democrats have seized on Romney’s report that he and his wife, Ann, paid 14.1 percent federal tax rate on income of $13.7 million last year to add to their narrative that the former private-equity executive is out-of-touch with working-class Americans.
“He pays a lower rate than most middle-class families because of complex loopholes and tax shelters,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday.
At the ballroom of the Grand Del Mar resort yesterday, Romney regaled donors with a description of his event from the previous evening -- a fundraiser at the home of Ada Regan, a mansion nestled in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
“Property up there is, I’m sure, very, very expensive,” Romney said. “We came to the home, and it was like San Simeon, you know, the Hearst Castle. It was this beautiful home with gardens, manicured gardens, and a pool and a topiary.”
The house, Romney described, included a gold-plated replica of the heat shield used on the lunar landing module -- a technology invented by Regan’s husband, Barrie Regan, an internationally known mechanical engineer and inventor.
Romney used the story of their family’s business to get into his standard attack against Obama: that the president doesn’t understand how the economy works.
“I want to hear what small business people are thinking,” he said. “I want to know what they believe we need to do to encourage job growth.”
In Los Angeles, where Romney raised $6 million, he was introduced as a “native son” of California by supporter Tom Tellefsen, a financial investor and long-time campaign supporter. Romney owns a $12 million home in the state and his wife trains her dressage horses outside of San Diego.
“At this moment I know you are probably feeling a bit worried, frustrated, even angry,” said Tellefsen, head of Romney’s fundraising in California. “Polls are not elections. The voters have not yet spoken.”
Romney’s fundraising needs haven’t swayed critics who say his focus on cash is coming at the expense of Romney’s core economic message.
“The logic of Romney’s fundraising has seemed, for some time, slightly crazy,” Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote in a Sept. 18 column in the Wall Street Journal. “He’s raising money so he can pile it in at the end, with ads. But at the end will they make much difference?”
Romney pushed back against the criticism, saying Sept. 21 that his campaign doesn’t need an overhaul.
“It doesn’t need a turnaround,” Romney said in an interview for CBS’s “60 Minutes” program, scheduled for broadcast today. “We’ve got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president.”