WASHINGTON -- As Mitt Romney's political prospects rose from "good" to "golden" last month following Rick Santorum's exit from the presidential race, another status indicator jumped as well: the cost to campaign donors of a "grip-and-grin" photo opportunity with the candidate. Photos with presidential candidates are a staple of what is known in Washington as a "bragging wall," typically one wall in a person's office which is covered with framed photos of themselves posing with famous and influential people.
Back in February, when Santorum and Newt Gingrich were both running strongly, a photo-op at a "policy roundtable" with Romney in Washington only cost donors $2,500. That price held steady through an April 18 fundraiser in South Carolina, the prices and hosts of which were organized before Santorum dropped out April 10.
But this Wednesday in Washington, a photo with the newly-cemented nominee will cost donors a personal or bundled contribution of $10,000 or more, which is four times what it would have cost in February and the same amount President Obama charges for a photo.
That same $2,500 contribution which used to get donors a photo with Romney now only affords them a ticket to a general reception, where guests listen to the candidate deliver a stump-speech similar to the one he gives at every campaign event.
Contributions can be paid to one of three Romney presidential campaign accounts: Romney's Republican primary campaign, his Romney Victory Inc. joint account with the Republican National Committee or his general election fund, which is the newest addition to his fundraising pantheon.
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