Even before the news broke that Mitt Romney had made the decision not to enter
the 2016 presidential race, the battle to woo his financial supporters was underway.
"I’ve already had three phone calls from various camps asking me to have them over to talk. I’ve told them I need a weekend to process this all," John Rakolta Jr., a Romney fundraiser from Michigan told The New York Times
Fundraisers from the respective campaigns also began reaching out to donors who had supported Romney in 2012, and were holding onto their cash because they were uncertain whether the former Massachusetts governor actually would jump into the race.
"Mitt had a lot of loyal soldiers who were prepared to sit on the fence. We have a lot of stuff organized. There is a lot underway," said Ray Washburne, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's finance director,
who spent hours making calls to Romney donors before the announcement was made official.
Washburne told NBC News that the donors who may have been holding out for a firm decision from the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee were given the go-ahead to back other GOP contenders.
The indecisiveness that marked Romney's comments in recent months already had set off a chase for his 2012 supporters, some of whom had thrown their support to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before Friday.
One of those high-dollar donors, Florida healthcare executive Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, who contributed at least $1 million to Romney in 2011, said he was unsure of whether Bush or Romney would run, but indicated an openness to his home state candidate.
"I also do not know if Gov. Bush will run, but I would happy to support him, if he decides to enter the arena. At this time all that I do know is that he is still evaluating the possibility.
"As I have done in the past, I would also be happy to hold an event for his benefit, but we have not scheduled a fundraising event as of today," he told The Miami Herald
before Romney's announcement.
Others, like Chicago investor Craig Duchossois, said simply that they had already decided Romney did not have a chance to win in 2016.
"I've got great respect for Gov. Romney, and I busted my buns for him. But I have turned the page," he told The Associated Press
"It sure changes the ballgame, doesn’t it?" Frank L. VanderSloot, whose Idaho-based health-products company contributed $1 million to Romney' super PAC in 2012, told The Times.
"The top ones that have my interest would be Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. In my book, Chris Christie is out of it," he said.
Candidates with stronger conservative credentials and who are gaining traction, such as Walker, the current Wisconsin governor, could also could benefit from Romney's departure.
"He has a conservative bona fides that the right is looking for because of his toughness on what he’s done in Wisconsin; however, he’s not a radical when it comes to the big issues of the day, like immigration reform," Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble told Politico
A poll conducted by Bloomberg News and The Des Moines Register
showed Walker was the "first choice" of 15 percent of Iowa GOP primary voters, an increase of four points over an October 2014 survey, and a better rating more than any other candidate received.
Although it might seem logical that Romney's donors would naturally gravitate toward other moderates like Christie and Bush, Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee chairman, tells USA Today
that with a crowded field and a long primary, it is too early to declare a clear front-runner.
"It's still a very large field with many candidates who have strong records of achievement and a starting place," Barbour said.
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