By Peter Stone
In the wee hours next Monday in Las Vegas, when many Sin City visitors are still sound asleep or just going to bed, an army of top fundraisers for Mitt Romney will start dialing for dollars with an eye toward raising millions for his presidential exploratory committee.
Hundreds of fundraisers have signed up for the money harvest in Vegas. The fundraising marathon, which will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is shooting to corral between $2 million and $3 million, according to Romney fundraisers.
The day's fundraising begins at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time to hit up East Coast donors early. It will include big-name Romney bundlers from around the country. Among those expected to be on hand are: John Rood, the Florida chairman for Romney and an ambassador to the Bahamas under George W. Bush; John Rakolta Jr., a Detroit construction magnate; Chris Collins, a Massachusetts developer; Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets; and Ron Kaufman, the chairman of Dutko Worldwide lobbying group.
So far, Romney has assembled the biggest network of GOP bundlers of the numerous potential GOP candidates. Romney fundraisers said his committee is trying to raise between $15 million and $30 million this quarter, an ambitious goal since donors can only give a maximum of $2,500 each for the primaries. For the entire primary season, Romney fundraisers are looking to raise a minimum of $50 million.
When Romney announces his formal campaign, as he's expected to do by the end of the second quarter, donors will be able to give a total of $5,000, half for the primaries and half for the general.
Romney will host a reception the night before for his top fundraisers, many of whom will be spending Sunday night at casino hotels owned by Vegas tycoons Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson.
Romney, who launched his exploratory committee last month and has been meeting periodically with big bundlers in several cities, is hoping to get top fundraisers to rope in between $25,000 and $50,000 each by the end of the second quarter. Since April, Romney has traveled to several traditional fundraising havens such as New York, Washington and Los Angeles to meet with small groups of bundlers and rev them up.
In 2007, when he began his first White House run, Romney held a call day in Boston with some 400 fundraisers like the event coming next week in Vegas. That fundraiser pulled in about $1 million for his campaign coffers.
In 2007-2008, Romney raised more than $60 million in his failed drive to win the GOP primary battle against John McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Romney, whose campaign has said he's worth between $190 million and $250 million, also loaned almost $45 million to his 2007-2008 effort.
In the first quarter of 2007, Romney raised $23 million which back then led the GOP field.
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