LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Under fire from fellow Republicans to be more visible in swing states to help his shaky campaign, Mitt Romney will have to pull himself away from a major drag on his time: fundraising events.
Presidential hopeful Romney’s new strategy to sometimes hold three campaign events a day in the key states that will likely decide the November 6 election has yet to kick in.
Instead, on Friday he flew across the country to hold just one rally in Las Vegas, but also to attend a fundraiser with wealthy donors at the Red Rock Casino Resort and another one near San Francisco.
“President Obama says he can’t fix Washington. I can. I will lead. I will get the job done,” he told the Las Vegas audience of financial backers and casino bigwigs.
Among the supporters was Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of The Venetian Resort. Romney teased him in his remarks. “I don’t know how it is that Sheldon Adelson got in the front row,” he quipped.
Romney needs to keep his donors sweet after President Barack Obama and his allies scored a financial victory in August over the Republicans.
Romney’s “Super PAC” - Restore Our Future - plowed through $21.2 million as its fundraising declined for the second month, leaving it with just $6.3 million in cash on hand and raising questions about how much of an ad-buying force it will be in the home stretch.
Adelson and his wife gave $10 million to the Super PAC in June but it is not known whether he and Romney discussed further funding on Friday. The two men were photographed shaking hands after the Red Rock event.
Also in Nevada, Romney held a rally where he spoke for about 20 minutes to several thousand supporters at the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The Republican touched on proposals to help the still-struggling housing market. Nevada, a swing state where polls show a tight presidential race, was one of the epicenters of the housing bust that helped trigger the 2007-2009 U.S. recession.
Romney said the government should move aggressively to sell hundreds of thousands of foreclosed houses it has on its books.
He then flew to his other donor event, at a historic mansion in Hillsborough, a wealthy community outside of San Francisco. Among those in attendance was George Shultz, U.S. Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan.
Romney, who lags narrowly in national polls but by notable margins in battleground states such as Ohio, has mostly stayed away from big swing-state campaign events in the past week.
He has spent time raising money in California, a sure Democratic win in November, and Texas, which is safely Republican. He also visited Georgia and Utah, both Republican-leaning red states, for fundraisers.
“Romney doesn’t seem to be out there campaigning enough,” Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Reagan, wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
The former Massachusetts governor seems “always be disappearing into fundraisers and not having enough big public events.”
The number of voters reached by retail campaigning - shaking hands at a state fair, or speaking at a rally - pales next to those that a campaign can appeal to through the kind of intensive television advertising that funds raised from wealthy donors can buy.
But at a time when most swing-state voters have seen hundreds of ads, a local event that might top the evening news is good publicity for a candidate that money cannot buy.
Romney has no public events planned for Saturday, which he will spend in Los Angeles and San Diego, where he has a home. On Sunday, he will hold an evening campaign rally in Denver.
Next week will see him spend more time in front of voters.
He goes on a bus tour of Ohio on Tuesday and Wednesday and will team up there with running mate Paul Ryan.
Apart from being a time sink, fundraisers also hold dangers for Romney. He was speaking candidly to donors at a luxury home in Boca Raton, Florida, in May when he made comments about Obama’s supporters becoming reliant on federal aid. Those remarks made behind closed doors surfaced in a video this week and caused a firestorm of criticism.
Editing By Alistair Bell and Mohammad Zargham