The New York Times:
They schmoozed with Mitt Romney at a barbecue cookout at the Olympic Park, pressing him on labor regulations and the threat of a nuclear Iran as downhill skiers performed midair flips behind them.
They rubbed elbows with Beth Myers, who is running Mr. Romney’s vice-presidential search, in the packed lobby bar of the Chateaux at Silver Lake, over $15 glasses of Scotch.And they mingled with Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, during an intimate “Women for Romney victory tea,” held on an umbrella-shaded patio in this resort town.The Romney campaign, whose fund-raising prowess has defied assumptions about President Obama’s financial advantages, offered wealthy donors and bundlers an extraordinary level of access to the candidate, his staff members, advisers and family this weekend at a three-day retreat that even seasoned political contributors said dwarfed previous presidential powwows.Mr. Romney’s political operation seemed to all but shut down and relocate to the mountains of Utah. At least 15 senior campaign figures flew in for what blue-blazered guests from Texas, North Carolina and New York dubbed Republicanpalooza, delivering briefings on the effectiveness of Mr. Romney’s and Mr. Obama’s commercials and spinning them through the latest polling data, which they said showed the race as a dead heat.(...) The Romney campaign offered donors who gave $50,000 or raised $100,000 intimate seminars and discussions featuring leading Republican lights, past and present: Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, James Baker III, John McCain and Jeb Bush, whose presence represented a symbolic embrace of a candidate who struggled to win over the disparate elements of his party in the bruising primary.“Everyone is coming here to rally around the Romney flagpole,” said Cheryl Halpern, a filmmaker who attended with her husband, Fred, a real estate developer from New Jersey. The pair went to a special Sabbath dinner at the retreat featuring kosher fare.At times, the scene here at a compound of high-altitude ski lodges seemed like an imitation Republican National Convention. In the span of a few moments, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, greeted Michael Chertoff, George. W. Bush’s secretary of homeland security, at an outdoor cafe as Mary Matalin, the conservative commentator, whizzed by in an extended-cab golf cart and Mr. Romney’s brother, Scott, approached in a pair of shiny black pants from Prada. (Guests noted that Scott Romney’s current and ex-wives were in attendance.)Brenda LaGrange Johnson, a former United States ambassador to Jamaica who previously attended donor retreats held by President George W. Bush in Texas, said there was no comparison with Mr. Romney’s event here. “This is much more thorough,” she said. “This is much more extensive.”Donors were unabashed about their desire to have face time with those who might constitute the brain trust in a Romney White House. David A. Wish, a Florida doctor and Romney fund-raiser, said that in order to sell the candidate to potential contributors, “we need one-on-one time with the people who make decisions.”Soon after, Mr. Wish cornered Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser, for a brief chat.(...) The Romney campaign took pains to personalize the experience. Arriving guests received beige Vineyard Vines canvas bags embroidered with the campaign slogan “Believe in America.” Inside was a Romney-branded navy blue baseball cap and pins that designated donation levels. The campaign’s fund-raising chief, Spencer Zwick, signed 450 welcoming letters.Donors attended policy discussions and round tables (like “Innovation in America” co-hosted by Ken Langone, a founder of Home Depot) that were tailored to their interests, both political and financial. Representative Connie Mack of Florida spoke at a session on energy policy. Ms. Matalin talked about the media, humorously recalling her conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney after he accidentally shot a friend on a hunting trip. And Ms. Rice addressed the need for renewed American leadership around the world, in a speech several guests called “electrifying.”(...) Mr. Romney mixed with guests at an elaborate dinner at the foot of steep ski jumps and a winding bobsled course used in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Over barbecued beef, chicken and salmon, guests whispered advice on swing states and asked him about his chances against Mr. Obama, whose name was employed in an acronym by several attendees — “A.B.O.,” anybody but Obama.Mr. Baker, the secretary of state under the first President George Bush, said the retreat reminded him of a conference that Gerald Ford held in Vail, Colo., as he laid the groundwork for his campaign against Jimmy Carter in 1976.“That’s what I see going on here,” Mr. Baker said in an interview. “We are going to have a different result. This year we are going to win.”On Thursday night, Mr. Rove held court on a hotel balcony with about a half-dozen financial executives, who peppered him with questions about Mr. Romney’s chances.(...) After Mr. Rove walked away, the gaggle of men excitedly recounted the conversation, reveling in their access.“That’s the price of admission right there,” one donor said to another. “Your six minutes with Rove.”
If Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign were listed on the stock market, then those populating Utah’s luxurious Deer Valley resort this weekend were its biggest shareholders. They showed off silver lapel pins signifying their elite status, carried around custom Vineyard Vines canvas totes and exuded collective amazement after watching Olympic ski jumpers do flips into a giant swimming pool.But mostly they were here to take stock of their investment, Romney. And after two days of intimate mingling with the presumptive Republican nominee and his senior advisers at a rarefied retreat in Park City, they have grown bullish, saying they taste victory like never before in Romney’s six-year quest for the presidency.
“The tide is turning in Mitt’s favor,” said Bobbie Kilberg, a top fundraiser from Virginia. “There’s a real sense here that he can win, and it’s not just that people are being Pollyannaish. You can feel it in the air. . . .This place is full of kinetic energy.”