On a conference call from Las Vegas earlier today, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney kicked off his grassroots fundraising effort, and told supporters that his unofficial campaign essentially begins now.
“I know a lot of folks have wondered, ‘Hey, when is this campaign really going to get going, when do the gears get into place?’ And the answer is today,” he said.
Romney said he was “activating” his supporters–including “those that bundle funds by raising money from their colleagues and so forth”–and was hoping to show “the kind of money that will communicate to people at large that this is a credible and effective campaign.”
Romney has been making a concerted fundraising push since late March, meeting with big donors in cities across the country, in the hopes of posting $50 million in the second fundraising quarter. That kind of haul could help discourage other potential candidates, and perhaps establish Romney as the definitive front-runner in a nebulous Republican field.
He offered some helpful advice about how to convince potential supporters on two key points: why he’s capable of defeating President Obama, and how to deal with questions about the health care plan he implemented in Massachusetts.
Romney said voters care most about the economy and creating jobs. “That is my wheelhouse,” he said, citing his work turning around private companies, the Winter Olympics, and the state of Massachusetts. “That is what I know and what I do.”
He briefly alluded to government’s role, before pivoting to a point about trimming the size of government.
“I understand how the economy works and how government works to get it—and how to shrink it,” he said. “You need to understand that as well. I will get America on the right track again.”
He also told supporters to expect questions about health care–referring to the Massachusetts plan by the colloquial “RomneyCare”–and mentioned his big speech last Thursday, before offering a simpler explanation.
“For those of you that are getting that question, it’s pretty straightforward,” Romney said. “And that is, we put in place in my state an experiment. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. But one thing I would never do is take away from the state the right for them to craft their own program for their own people.”
Before he spoke, an aide said there were about 700 people at the call center in Las Vegas making calls on the campaign’s behalf. Romney won the Nevada primary in 2008, and he nearly hearkened back to that race in talking about the country’s stagnant unemployment numbers.
“If you see 2008–excuse me, 2012,” he said with a laugh, “another year of unemployment above 8 percent, then this president will have had 4 years with unemployment above 8 percent.”
Romney said that was a failure by the president’s own standard, and offered his own explanation for the lack of an economic recovery.
“I think [President Obama] is in real trouble economically because I think he just doesn’t understand or believe in the economic principles that have made America so successful,” Romney said. “I don’t think he really loves free enterprise and capitalism. I think he has disdain for the free markets. I think he has disdain for states and states responsibilities and powers.”
Romney also said the president didn’t sufficiently appreciate Nevada, which is part of the reason he chose to host his call day there.
“President Obama was disrespectful of Nevada early on, suggesting people not attend events and meetings out here,” he said. “We disagree.”
UPDATE: Maybe Romney’s selling points worked. His press shop just emailed that they raised $10.25 million.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Governor Romney’s campaign,” said Romney’s finance chair, Spencer Zwick, in the email. “The results are a strong indication of the national enthusiasm for Governor Romney and his pro-jobs platform. As today’s event makes clear, Governor Romney will have the resources to be competitive and to spread his jobs and economy message. We would like to thank all of the friends, volunteers and supporters who helped make this event a success.”