Video of a high-dollar Mitt Romney fundraiser posted by Mother Jones reveals that even Romney’s most ardent supporters — the ones who attend $50,000 per plate dinners to help him get elected — are anxious that he’s just not a likable candidate.
In the video, recorded at a May event, the donors can be seen confronting Romney about how he relates to the public, and begging him to improve.
“Individuals in this room obviously are your supporters. I am very concerned about the average American who doesn’t know you,” one woman says to Romney.
“Right now I’m very concerned. Women do not want to vote for you. Hispanics, the majority of them, do not want to vote for you. College students don’t. After talking to them and explaining and relating to them on a one-on-one basis, we are able to change their opinions. But on a mass level, what do you want us to do, this group, as your emissaries, going out to convert these individuals?”Romney’s answer? Help me raise a lot of money.
“Frankly what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars … that’s by far the most important thing you can do,” he said. “You don’t have the capacity to talk to hundreds of thousands of people. I will be in the debates with 250 million people watching. If I do well, it’ll help. If I don’t, it won’t help.”
Romney also cited contemporary polling showing him with a slim lead among women voters (the current PollTracker Average shows President Obama with a 14 percent lead among women) and said those numbers proved it’s possible for him to win the female electorate. He said the Hispanic vote is a tougher mountain to climb.
“We’re having a much harder time with Hispanic voters,” Romney said.
The questioner wasn’t the only one concerned about Romney’s failure to connect. Romney rebuffed suggestions that he should help voters get to know him by appearing on television shows, but Romney insisted that “The View” was too “high risk” and said accepting an invite from “Saturday Night Live” would have made him appear un-presidential.
One female donor said she worried about Romney’s inability to build a bridge to the female electorate.
“I’ve seen Obama a lot of time on talk shows…I’ve never seen you on any of them. I think a lot of women especially [inaudible] that you’re talking about, I think they would see you in a different light because a lot of women, they don’t watch debates, they don’t come to these functions,” the donor said. “You may need to show your face more on TV and talk with us like regular … [inaudble.] So I think you could reach a lot of new voters that way.”
Another woman begged Romney to put his wife, Ann, front and center before it’s too late.
“Somebody said over there people think of you as a rich guy … we know that you value a dollar and hard work,” the donor said. “But Ann really connects with people and she can tell a story well. She’s the perfect person to go and sit with Matt Lauer and go on ‘Good Morning America’ and go on ‘The View’ and hold her own with all these people and really get you, I think, the women connecting with you.”
Romney told the donor that the campaign was being very careful not to deploy Ann too often before Election Day so that her appearances would be even more powerful in the home stretch of September and Octiober. And, true to his word, Romney’s campaign put Ann front and center at the Republican National Convention, assigning her the job of bolstering Romney’s support with women and Hispanic voters.
Donors are not political strategists, but some pay the hefty price to get close to a candidate so they can pretend they are. Any fundraising event undoubtedly features unsolicited advice about what ad to run or what rhetoric to use. But the donors at the Romney event were tapping into something other Republicans who are political strategists have also noted. Behind another set of closed doors in July, House Speaker John Boehner said Romney’s failure to connect with the public on a personal level was going to be a part of the campaign until November.
“The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney. I’ll tell you this: 95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November are going to show up in that voting booth, and they are going to vote for or against Barack Obama,” Boehner said. “Mitt Romney has some friends, relatives and fellow Mormons … some people that are going to vote for him. But that’s not what this election is about. This election is going to be a referendum on the president’s failed economic policies.”