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Fundraising Trumps Rallies in Romney's Schedule

Fundraising Trumps Rallies in Romney's Schedule

By Scott Conroy - September 18, 2012

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As his campaign dealt with the fallout from a video highlighting politically volatile remarks he made at a private fundraiser in May, Mitt Romney was once again out of public view on Tuesday.

With less than seven weeks remaining until Election Day, the Republican presidential nominee spent his morning at a Salt Lake City finance event before a scheduled trip to Dallas for a private fundraising dinner.

Entrenched in the most conservative state in the nation before landing deep in the heart of Texas, the entirety of Romney’s day will have been spent hundreds of miles from the nearest swing state. What’s more, he is slated to appear in public only via a satellite feed for an interview on the Fox News Channel.

Romney’s light public schedule in the heart of the campaign’s final sprint has led some GOP donors to grumble that he should be paying less attention to them at this point and spending more time winning over voters who will decide the election at the ballot box.

“There’s not really a campaign here,” said one Republican with extensive ties to the party’s fundraising community. “He’s getting ready for the debates, and he’s out fundraising. You’ve got enough money!”

Over the last seven days, Romney’s public events have included just two rallies: one with supporters at a campaign office in Florida, and a speech to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in California.

During the same time frame, he has attended seven private fundraisers and had two days with no events scheduled at all, choosing instead to prepare for the three upcoming debates with President Obama and conducting one TV interview.

In all, Romney has spent only nine of the 19 days since the conclusion of the Republican National Convention campaigning in battleground states.

But while some donors want to see more of him in public, others say that they are on board with the strategy behind this relatively light schedule.

“It’s too late to do rallies,” said John Catsimatidis, a major Romney bundler who said that he spoke extensively with the candidate during a recent New York City fundraising swing. “I don’t think you can see enough people to make a difference. I think getting on television and telling the people what you’re going to do -- spending your time doing that is more important than hitting 50 cities in 50 days.”

Though Romney’s most recent trip to his most lucrative fundraising zone -- the New York metro area -- was slated to be his last of the campaign, his running mate, Paul Ryan, is scheduled to return to Manhattan for a fundraiser on Oct. 1, according to two GOP sources who have been invited to the event.

Strategists from both campaigns believe that voter fatigue with an expected swing-state advertising barrage will kick into a higher gear at some point in the campaign’s homestretch, resulting in a diminished return on their investments.

President Obama has also kept his foot on the fundraising gas pedal as autumn approaches.

When Romney’s campaign plane touches down in Dallas on Tuesday night, for instance, Obama will be on his way attend a pair of Manhattan fundraisers after taping an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”

But Romney’s relatively low public profile has come during a week in which he has suffered a series of negative headlines on a range of issues: his response to the anti-American upheavals in the Arab world; a Politico report that detailed internal campaign strife; and the release of the video in which he said of the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay federal income tax, “I'll never be able to convince them that that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Nonetheless, Andy Busser, a private equity investor and Romney bundler in New York, said that fellow donors with whom he speaks regularly are confident about the campaign’s strategy and remain especially energized by the Republican’s selection of Ryan to be his running mate.

“Certainly, the need to go out and raise money is still clearly evident, and it’s true for Obama as well,” Busser said. “When I sit on [Romney campaign] conference calls, the thoughts and strategies are well thought out. I don’t think there’s any haphazard, seat-of-your-pants effort here.”

Several Romney donors who were interviewed for this story also said the media have unfairly created a perception that Obama has taken an insurmountable lead, even though polling shows a close race.

Obama leads Romney by 2.9 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, and many GOP financial backers believe that gap will soon narrow, despite the recent setbacks.

“I’m not upset with the job they’re doing. I’m not even upset with the dirty linens that are getting washed,” one major Romney donor said of the Republican’s campaign team. “Three points behind for a challenger means the challenger is ahead.” 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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