- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

BOSTON — Mitt Romney figured he needed something to wow the politicos for the first event of his young presidential campaign, so he put together yesterday’s first-ever telemarketing fundraiser featuring governors and high-powered CEOs gathered together to dial for dollars — more than $6.5 million raised in one day.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support, I’m heartened by the friendships and I’m optimistic about the future,” Mr. Romney, a Republican, said as he announced the total to reporters yesterday evening, adding that it was a major statement about the ability to compete for “a guy who is not terribly well-known — me.”

It was an impressive entry for the former governor of Massachusetts into the so-called “invisible primary,” the period before the actual 2008 primaries and caucuses, when candidates flaunt their fundraising prowess, show off their organizational skills and even try a few gimmicks to prove they can compete and to scare other potential candidates from entering the field.

“I think it’s going to be a very strong message today to everybody — I think it’s going to be a strong message to [Sen. John] McCain as well as to [former New York Mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani, and I think it’s going to be a strong message to those that are considering or haven’t really yet laid the groundwork,” said Thomas Tellefsen, one of the co-chairmen of Mr. Romney’s national finance team, naming the top Republican candidates in current primary polling.

Mr. Romney ended his term as governor of Massachusetts last week, the day after he announced formation of a committee to explore a run for president. An announcement on an official presidential committee is expected some time this winter.

In addition to yesterday’s event to prove his fundraising credentials, Mr. Romney has also used this first official week to try to quell concerns among social conservatives about past remarks.

“Now, I wasn’t always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Reagan, by the way. And perhaps some in this room have had the opportunity to listen, learn and benefit from life’s experience — and to grow in wisdom, as I have,” he told a gathering of conservatives and major Republican donors in Sea Island, Ga.

“My life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right. I’m a conservative that gets the job done. And you don’t just have to take my word for it, you can just look at my record,” he said.

While that weekend appearance was about honing a message, yesterday’s event was all about proving fundraising and organizational skills.

The campaign rented out the grand ballroom at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and had nearly 400 stations set up with telephones and laptops computers for the high-powered callers to take credit-card information down on the spot.

After a legal briefing by the campaign’s lawyer, an introductory inspirational video about Mr. Romney and some opening remarks from the candidate and his wife, the calls began. The callers — among them Meg Whitman, the president and CEO of EBay, and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican — called their own lists of friends and colleagues to ask them to contribute. The campaign said the volunteers made about 15,000 outbound calls.

“In political fundraising, money talks, but early money screams,” said Spencer Zwick, the campaign’s finance director.

Mr. Tellefsen, who was one of the elite fundraisers for President Bush in 2004, attended Harvard Business School with both Mr. Bush and Mr. Romney and said Mr. Romney “was much smarter than both of us.”

“The president and governor and I were all in the business school, but he also was in the law school and he graduated in the top part of his class in both of those things,” Mr. Tellefsen said.

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