Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walks away from his campaign… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)
Since so much of this presidential contest depends on Florida, perhaps it was fitting that Mitt Romney held his last fundraisers for the race in the Sunshine State, marking the end of months spent relentlessly – and sometimes controversially – collecting donations to compete against President Obama.
Reporters were not allowed into two gatherings, billed as one fundraiser, held Saturday at the Palm Beach homes of Dwight Schar, the founder of a major homebuilder and part owner of the Washington Redskins, and his wife, Martha, and Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who specialized in leveraged buyouts, and his wife, Hilary.
The GOP nominee faced criticism earlier this fall for spending more time raising money than campaigning, but defended his schedule by saying it was necessary to compete with Obama.
“We’ve been very heavy raising money,” Romney told reporters aboard his plane in late September, before noting that Obama in 2008 became the first major party candidate in modern history to decline public matching funds — funds which come with limitations on how much money a candidate can raise.
Romney continued: “He’s doing it again this time, so to be competitive it means a lot more fundraising than I think I would like. I’d far rather be spending my time out in the key swing states campaigning, door to door if necessary but in rallies and various meetings, but fundraising is a part of politics when your opponent decides not to live by the federal spending limits.”
Romney’s final fundraisers came the same day as the release of campaign finance disclosure reports that showed that both candidates saw a surge in donations in September.
Obama and affiliated Democratic committees brought in $181 million, while Romney and his affiliated committees raised $170 million. Obama burned through nearly $116 million in September, close to twice as much as Romney. Romney and his affiliated committees entered October with more cash on hand than Obama, $191 million to $150 million.
Earlier in the day, Romney prepared for Monday’s third and final debate against Obama. And – wouldn’t you know it? – that debate will be in Florida, in Boca Raton, to be exact.
In the primaries and in the general election, debates have proved critical for the former Massachusetts governor’s prospects.
A knock-out performance against Newt Gingrich in February helped Romney effectively eliminate the former House speaker from the race for the GOP nomination. A well-regarded effort against a listless Obama in their first debate a few weeks ago reset the race for the presidency, which is now a tight contest. Monday night’s face-off (starting at 6 p.m. PDT) will focus on foreign policy. Romney’s advisors were close-lipped about the practice sessions.
“We talked a lot about foreign policy,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a longtime Romney advisor, declining to provide additional details.