While Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney prepared for last night’s debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, 28 miles away, his top fundraisers dialed for dollars at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The phone-banking session, an attempt to harvest cash from contributors who had given the maximum amount during the primary election yet hadn’t done so for the general election, was part of a three-day event for Romney’s financial team. Men and women on their mobile phones paced over the “Wheel of Life” tile mosaic at the Park Avenue entrance as they worked their way down call lists prepared and distributed by the Romney campaign.
Among the 1,000 fundraisers, top donors and campaign financial directors in attendance: actor Jon Voight, real-estate mogul Donald Trump, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Jets owner Woody Johnson and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain’s wife, Cindy. Comedian Dennis Miller was scheduled as entertainment for a private debate-watch party at the Roseland Ballroom.
“They come here and feel appreciated for their support,” said Spencer Zwick, Romney’s finance chairman, said. “They get a sense of how their money is going to be used, and they get energized to go forward and do a lot more.”
The New York gathering began Oct. 15, the day Romney’s campaign announced he and allied party committees raised $170 million last month, making it their best month while still falling short of Obama and the Democrats’ $181 million September haul.
Attendees briefed by campaign officials were told that a good amount of that cash will be used to implement an ad strategy that centers on Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to an attendee not authorized to speak.
Each of those are states where polls show the race is close. Campaign officials played for donors new advertisements featuring women who said they were Romney voters four years after supporting Obama, the attendee said, adding they were “kitchen-table style.” Several outside groups have employed that same theme in recent ads.
The campaign and the Republican National Committee, through a joint account, also are beginning to transfer money to states for voter-turnout operations, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Ohio received $2.6 million last month while $1 million was sent to Pennsylvania, the disclosure reports show. About $3.4 million was divided among Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Between word of the money-raising success and poll movement in Romney’s favor after his first debate performance, attendees were in good spirits.
“I’m feeling very excited,” Giuliani said. “I can read polls. I see the great advance that Governor Romney has made and the decline of President Obama.”
“The mood is ecstatic,” a smiling Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. “Everyone’s happy.”
A dinner gala Oct. 15 at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum included a video in which Trump deployed his signature “You’re Fired!” line on President Barack Obama.
As he darted through rain into the museum, Giuliani paused to bash Obama’s handling of the embassy attack in Libya.
“It betrays a policy of provocative weakness on the part of President Obama,” the former mayor said from under an umbrella.
Prompted by reporters, Trump offered debate advice as he and wife, Melania, stepped out of their car: “For Romney, just be the way he is.”
Yesterday began with a breakfast at the Waldorf followed by a rallying speech from vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who’d flown in from Wisconsin. Lunch in the hotel featured remarks by the eldest Romney son, Tagg, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Three work sessions during the day covered campaign strategy, “Issues Facing America,” and a detailed discussion, led by Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, of the media and messaging plan for the final three weeks. Reporters were barred from all of the events.
There was plenty of leisure to balance their labors. Many stayed at the Waldorf, catching up over a $9 cup of coffee in its Peacock Alley Restaurant or lingering near the two-ton gold clock.
Campaign souvenirs on display included a hardwood maple chair stamped “Founding Partner” ($350), a table timepiece by Chelsea Clocks ($450) and stars or stripes cuff links ($150).
The New York City gathering was a follow-up to a June retreat in Park City, Utah.
Both times, outside groups piggy-backed on the official campaign events. Spotted checking into the Waldorf yesterday: Charlie Spies, finance chief of Restore Our Future, a super-political action committee devoted to helping elect Romney.
In Park City, Karl Rove, who guides American Crossroads and its allied nonprofit Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategy, mingled with the Romney donor crowd. Rove’s groups run ads in support of Romney, as well as messages that back Republican congressional candidates.
The outside groups are prohibited by law from coordinating with candidates’ campaigns. That doesn’t mean they can’t happen to be in the same historic hotel at the same time.