GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is spending much of this week in Alabama, South Carolina, Massachusetts and New York. He plans visits next week to Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico.
These states have one thing in common: None is seriously contested in the presidential race, so there's no real need to woo their voters. Romney is going solely to raise money, which remains a top priority even with the election less than 12 weeks away and President Barack Obama making extended visits to toss-up states such as Iowa and Ohio.
To be sure, Obama attends numerous fundraisers of his own. And Romney has spent significant time at public campaign events in swing states, and he will do so many times again before Nov. 6.
But the amount of time Romney is devoting to private fundraisers in noncompetitive states is notable. Even when he is in swing states, he sometimes attends only a fundraiser, without mingling with nondonors or appearing before local TV cameras, as he did Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.
Romney is pouring time into fundraisers even though he has outdistanced Obama on that front for months. The former Massachusetts governor reported raising more than $101 million along with the Republican National Committee in July. Obama's campaign and Democratic National Committee raised $75 million for the month.
Romney's money advantage is expanded by technically independent groups flooding airwaves with ads criticizing Obama. Two pro-GOP super PACS — Restore Our Future and American Crossroads — have raised more than $122 million since the beginning of last year. Democratic-leaning groups Priorities USA Action and American Bridge 21st Century have raised about $30 million in that time.
Obama recently told voters, "Over the course of the next three months, the other side is going to spend more money than we have ever seen on ads that basically say the same thing you've been hearing for the past three months: The economy is not where it needs to be, and it's Obama's fault."
The candidate with the most money and TV ads doesn't necessarily win elections, and most polls suggest Obama holds a slight lead among voters. For now, at least, Romney's team has decided that pouring much of his time into fundraising is more valuable than another quick visit to Colorado, Florida or the other eight or 10 competitive states.
Romney, who made millions of dollars heading the private equity firm Bain Capital, is skilled at extracting money from supporters.
His Wednesday midday event in Charlotte drew more than 100 people who paid between $2,500 and $50,000 each, netting his campaign about $1.5 million. That night, a somewhat larger crowd at a swank club overlooking Birmingham, Ala., generated more than $2 million, campaign aides said.
A midday event Thursday in Greenville produced $1.7 million, and Romney held other fundraisers Thursday night in Boston. He has similar events scheduled this weekend and for much of next week.
The strategy is keeping him away from public events in competitive states for five straight days, barring a change in plans this weekend. He made a major speech in Ohio on Tuesday before diving into a long string of fundraisers in various states.
Some campaign strategists say the Obama and Romney camps have so much money that they can saturate the airwaves in competitive states, and further fundraising amounts to overkill.
Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak disagrees. He said Romney himself must attend fundraisers if he expects people to fork over as much as $50,000. "You're not going to be successful with a surrogate," he said.
Soon Romney will need time to devote big amounts of time to preparing for his three debates with Obama, and final-sprint campaigning, Mackowiak said, "so they're trying to pack in the fundraising before Labor Day."
Top-tier donors get private time to chat with Romney, out of reporters' sight. Those giving less money attend larger gatherings in which Romney gives a basic speech emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurs who create jobs.
He has been greatly impressed by "the power of individuals, the power of a citizen, a person, to change things for the better," he told the Greenville luncheon group.
Romney managed to stay in the news this week by taking reporters' questions Thursday in South Carolina, where he was pressed about his personal tax returns. Like Obama, he often grants interviews, by satellite, to local TV stations in swing states.
Next stop? A fundraiser Friday at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
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