If the majority of donors who attend this weekend’s gathering of hundreds of high dollar fundraisers go back home as fired up as Rodger Young, the Romney campaign will be in quite strong a financial position and the investment in time and effort for the event will be paid back many times over.
“I am going to bundle every penny I can bundle,” said Young, a donor at this weekend’s mixer for Romney donors, GOP stars, and Republican leaders.
Until this weekend, Young was merely a donor not a bundler, but that has now changed.
“I came here with the idea that we were all going to take on more financial responsibility and I am certainly prepared to do that for Gov. Romney and I think we can get this done,” Young told reporters.
Hundreds of high dollar fundraisers turned out this weekend for a mixer for Romney campaign donors, GOP stars and Republican leaders, but among the faces at the retreat were other attendees who have the same goals of defeating Barack Obama, but whose roles in Republican politics lie in super PACs.
A man in a dark suit and purple pocket square was camped out in the lobby of the Chateaux at Silver Lake talking to what appeared to be lanyard-wearing donors. The man was Charlie Spies, the founder of the Mitt Romney-backing super PAC Restore Our Future.
He wasn’t attending any of the panels or discussions and didn’t even want to go into get a cup of coffee, but the lobby is really the place to be, with attendees walking to and from meetings or gathering to talk.
Reporters were asked to leave the lobby after being spotted chatting with Sen. John Thune and his wife about Friday’s reception at Olympic Park, as well as with Florida Rep. Connie Mack.
It’s legal for Spies to be there, but “coordination” with the candidate is not, a rule that’s hard to enforce and explain.
He pleasantly wouldn’t answer questions about the propriety of him hobnobbing at the Romney Victory Leadership Retreat, but he said, “Romney supporters are energized.”
“People here understand that the private sector is not doing fine and we need a president who understands how to create jobs and turn the economy around.”
The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to an evening request for comment about ROF staff being at the retreat.
But Spies wasn’t the only person affiliated with a GOP superPAC attending the confab.
Karl Rove, founder of American Crossroads and a former Bush strategist, was also on hand. He spoke on a “media insight” panel, and on another one examining Romney’s path to victory. Rove, dressed in a blue blazer, told reporters his panel was “damn good,” before whizzing away on a golf cart.
Attendees said the panel was engaging and humorous, with Rove swearing up a storm and regaling the crowd with funny stories.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz told reporters both Rove and GOP strategist Mary Matalin were making the crowd howl, telling them about when Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a friend with bird-shot pellets on a hunting trip.
“He was on full display,” Chaffetz said of Rove.
It wasn’t all joking, though. According to Young and his wife, Rove said, “We had to focus on some particular groups, such as some Republicans that didn’t vote in the last election,” including focusing on women. It’s unclear whether Rove was also soliciting donations as he mingled with attendees over the weekend.
Many of those same attendees said the star speaker of the weekend was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who received and a standing ovation. Ambassador Charles Cobb, who served as ambassador to Iceland from 1989 to 1992, said Rice was “spectacular” and described her as a “very bright, sophisticated, articulate lady.”
Husband-and-wife donors from Los Angeles who did not want to be identified said Rice’s message was one of “America needing to take charge.”
“We can’t stand by and let things happen,” the wife said. “If we do, someone else will take that leadership role.”
They both described her address as an “impassioned plea” for the country to “stand up and take charge.”
Donor Kent Lucken, an international banker in Boston who moved back to his home state of Iowa for six weeks before the caucuses to help Romney, said “she rocked it.”
Attendees also heard from Sen. John McCain, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and many other GOP notables. The donors were also able to learn about what Chaffetz described as how “the Romney train runs on time.”
The attendees got to hear from the Romney senior staff, including campaign manager Matt Rhoades, senior strategist Stuart Stevens, and longtime adviser Beth Myers who is heading up the vice presidential selection process. They described the campaign’s “10 a.m. meeting,” according to Chaffetz and several donors.
“I think people were fascinated by that,” Chaffetz said. “They spent a good half hour showing them how they would do that, and what they would talk about and how they review the numbers and talk about messaging and develop that into a cohesive message that’s not only earned media but also paid media and other types of things. That was really different than I think that most people thought.”
Chaffetz added that they went through “the analysis of what’s going on in the media, looking at polling, looking at all the different facets.”
Another thing many attendees weren’t expecting? How up-close and personal they would get with many of the stars of the party. Chaffetz pointed out that he saw many donors excitedly taking their photo with possible vice presidential choices.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan were all on hand.
Larry Conti who came with his friend, a bundler from Los Angeles, as his plus-one describes himself as “a big Paul Ryan fan” and was thrilled to meet him. Conti thought he would impress his friend when he took a photo with Ryan, who introduced himself to him as “Paul,” but instead the friend told him he had just spent 10 minutes talking to Ryan in the bathroom.
Eugene Atkinson, a bundler from New York City, said he thanked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and turned away only to have Cantor come back to him and ask him, “So how many years were you at Goldman Sachs?”
Atkinson spent almost 20 years at the bank (he is now the founder and managing director of Atkinson Capital), and Cantor’s wife used to work there.
And it’s also what these donors are leaving with, not just an enthusiasm to raise more money, as Young mentioned, but the impression that their guy is going to win.
Before he zoomed off in a golf cart with former Secretary of State James Baker, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who will also head up Romney’s transition if he is elected, said he came away from the panels with confidence that the Romney campaign has “a very impressive group of people supporting this campaign and we have a very good shot at winning.”
But with just under four months to go until election day, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus acted as a voice of reason for a campaign that is currently on top of the world.
“Everyone thinks we couldn’t be doing better. We are clicking on all cylinders. We couldn’t be raising more money, but it’s June,” Priebus said. “On our best day it will be close.”