LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mitt Romney launched a fundraising swing through California Tuesday, looking to cash in on his status as the provisional front-runner in the unsettled Republican presidential field.
The former Massachusetts governor scheduled five closed-door events over several days that started with a $1,000-a-head “kick off” lunch at a Sacramento hotel where co-hosts were asked to raise at least $10,000 for the campaign, according to an invitation.
His campaign declined to comment on the West Coast stopover, and Romney has no public appearances scheduled in the state.
Romney has been working behind the scenes to build support in the Democratic-leaning state, even though California is expected to play only a token role in selecting the Republican nominee next year. A bill pending in the Legislature would move California’s presidential primary to June 2012 from February, a date by which the GOP contest is likely to be resolved.
California has long served as a deep reservoir of campaign cash for national candidates. In his 2008 run for the White House, Romney raised more than $8 million in California, by far his largest haul from any state, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors election spending.
Romney owns an oceanfront home in San Diego County and is close with Meg Whitman, the former eBay Inc. CEO and 2010 candidate for California governor who is helping lead Romney’s national fundraising drive.
Romney’s trip started on the same day former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman formally entered the race, joining former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former pizza company entrepreneur Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Supporters can pay $2,500 for a photograph with the candidate at an event Thursday at a private home in coastal Orange County, where co-hosts are asked to raise at least $25,000 for the campaign, according to the invitation. Names on the invitation include billionaire investor George Argyros, a longtime GOP fundraiser. Romney also has stops in the San Francisco Bay Area and Beverly Hills.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)