Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan today fundraising for his campaign. The Observer stopped by the hotel where we chatted with former New York Stock Exchange chairman and CEO Dick Grasso and got shoved away from Mr. Romney’s Suburban.
Mr. Romney’s fundraiser was hosted by Home Depot founder Ken Langone. Our invite was lost in the mail, but the Observer arrived at the Waldorf shortly before noon and began searching for the Conrad Suite, where the event was taking place.
We found the suite on a hotel map and proceeded to the third floor. At the end of a long hallway, we saw signs reading “Mitt Romney For America” and a group of men in dark suits. We heard snippets of Mr. Romney’s speech. It was difficult to make out what Mr. Romney was saying from the hallway, but we heard something about “nuclear Iran,” how “jihadists are trying to kill us” and China.
The men guarding the door asked if we were invited and we identified ourselves.
“The event is closed to press,” one of the men said.
We walked further down the hallway and continued trying to overhear. After less than five minutes, a burly man in a brown uniform arrived and identified himself as Oscar Herrera with hotel security.
“This is a private event, you have to leave,” Mr. Herrera said.
Mr. Herrera walked us to the elevator and into the lobby. We asked if we could wait downstairs and were shown the door.
“You’re not to come back into the hotel,” Mr. Herrera said.
We waited on the curb next to a long line of limos. Fundraiser guests began coming out shortly after 1p.m. We spotted a pair of stout, older men in dark suits who said they attended the event. One told us Mr. Romney focused on “jobs and the economy.”
“He gave seven points, frankly I don’t think I can remember all seven,” said the other.
They said Mr. Romney did not discuss the allegations his rival Herman Cain made inappropriate advances to two women he worked with while head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990’s.
The men declined to give their names but said they worked in “business.” They said there were “a couple of hundred” people at the fundraiser. A bald man in a gray pinstriped suit came out tapping on an iPhone. He told us Mr. Romney discussed “broad policy and thoughts on creating jobs and reinvigorating America” before walking off down Park Avenue.
Moments later we spotted former NYSE Chairman and CEO Dick Grasso.
“The Governor laid out a very powerful message about jobs and the economy, his vision for America on the world stage. He was extremely impressive,” Mr. Grasso said.
Mr. Grasso told us Mr. Romney didn’t compare himself to his opponents.
“He didn’t do Coke/Pepsi,” Mr. Grasso said.
We asked Mr. Grasso what Mr. Romney had said about China, Iran and jihad.
“He was talking about the emergence of China as both an economic and military power and certainly from a global stage standpoint American needs to reposition itself,” Mr. Grasso said citing BRIC countries “taking market share” and our high levels of unemployment and underemployment as key issues.
Both Mr. Grasso and the fundraiser’s host, Mr. Langone, originally supported New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who decided not to run after a lengthy flirtation and endorsed Mr. Romney. We asked Mr. Grasso if he was ready to back Mr. Romney too.
“I’ve already said I will endorse the Republican candidate and if you had to guess which one I would pick, you would not be surprised,” Mr. Grasso said.
After we parted ways with Mr. Grasso, we saw one of Mr. Romney’s aides who we previously encountered in the lobby. He declined to discuss the event but offered to take our information to see if someone could “get back to us.”
As we spoke with him, Mr. Romney emerged from the hotel and made his way to a grey Chevy Suburban waiting by the curb. We walked up to Mr. Romney and attempted to speak to him as his aide repeatedly shoved us away, but Mr. Romney did tell another reporter that the event was “terrific.”
A man waving a photo of Mr. Romney and a sharpie ran to the closed window of the SUV attempting to get Mr. Romney’s autograph.
“It’s for my dad!” the man yelled as the car pulled out onto Park Avenue.