Having announced his presidential exploratory committee Monday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will spend the next six weeks crisscrossing the country, primarily in a drive to raise enough money to separate himself from the other potential 2012 Republican candidates.
Romney is scheduled to hold a fundraiser at New York’s Harbor Club on Tuesday. Wednesday includes a national conference call with key campaign donors and bundlers to discuss strategy and fundraising goals for the exploratory phase of what is expected to be Romney’s second run for president. And he plans to hold a national fundraising call day on May 16 in Las Vegas; a similar event held in Boston in 2007 raised more than $6 million.
Romney’s itinerary is also likely to be heavy on visits to states with significant GOP donor communities — including California, Florida and Texas — with an additional emphasis on appearances in the early primary states.
“Everybody’s hustling for dollars now,” said a source close to the Romney exploratory effort.
Romney ran for president in 2008 but came up short in the GOP primary after being deemed the frontrunner for much of the early stage of that campaign. He spent several million dollars of his own money on that race, but sources have indicated he would prefer not to contribute much out of his own pocket this time around.
At this early stage of the 2012 campaign, Romney’s main competition for exploratory campaign dollars appears to come from former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who launched his effort exactly three weeks ago via a video on Facebook. Romney also tapped social media outlets to spread word of his decision Monday afternoon.
Pawlenty has been traveling the country to raise money with the assistance of a deep team of national and state-based fundraising consultants, and his deputy national finance director, Katie McBreen, worked for Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Monday also marked the fifth anniversary of the day Romney signed Massachusetts’ health care reform into law. Viewed as a political strength at the time, the legislation has come to be regarded as a liability since President Barack Obama signed a federal health care overhaul into law last year.
The Massachusetts law is largely considered the inspiration for Obama’s health care overhaul, which remains unpopular with Republican voters and conservative-minded independents, and Democrats hammered Romney on Monday with sarcastic “congratulations” on the anniversary in news releases. One news release issued by the Democratic National Committee features a picture of Romney at the 2006 bill signing with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has since died, looking on.
But Romney’s exploratory announcement attempts to change the subject by accusing Obama of mismanaging the economy. Romney, a multimillionaire who ran the Boston-based private equity investment firm Bain Capital, touts himself as someone with the experience to create jobs and turn things around.
“President Obama’s policies have failed. He and virtually all the people around him have never worked in the real economy. They just don’t know how jobs are created in the private sector. That’s where I spent my entire career,” Romney says in his announcement video as he looks straight into the camera. “I’m convinced that with able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead. That’s why, today, I am announcing my exploratory committee for the presidency of the United States. It’s time that we put America back on a course of greatness.”
Obama announced his re-election bid last week. Several prominent Republicans continue to consider a run, among them Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).