Friday, March 30, 2007

Fundraising Reports Not Likely To Pack Knockout in WH Race

(from the politico)

Fundraising Reports Not Likely To Pack Knockout in WH Race
By: Jeanne Cummings and Kenneth P. Vogel
March 29, 2007 08:48 AM EST

The much hyped first-quarter fundraising deadline for presidential candidates is unlikely to fundamentally scramble the leader board of either party, an outcome that will surely increase pressure on them to keep up the pace in the next quarter.

Fear of being caught by surprise by a competitor and knocked out of the top tier has driven all the campaigns into a frenzied money-raising mode. Fundraising events are scheduled right up to Saturday's midnight deadline.

The tallies for the first three months of this year, due to the Federal Election Commission by April 15, are likely to set a first-quarter fundraising record. And the presidential campaign is expected to be the nation's first $1 billion race.

"Everybody's going to have a decent quarter," predicted Fred Baron, finance chairman for Democratic hopeful John Edwards.

So while there may be some reordering of the top fields, it appears as though a knockout punch is not in the offing. Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Edwards and Republicans John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are the front-runners going into Saturday's deadline and expected to remain after it, even if one falls short in the expectations game.

That could mean the broader impact of the first-quarter reports will be twofold: Elevating the importance of second-quarter fundraising, when the front-runners must show they can maintain momentum, and providing a pecking order to the second-tier candidates who are trying to cling to fourth place and a chance to break through later.

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"The candidates now are generally gathering donations from core supporters and pre-identified donors," said Anthony J. Corrado Jr., a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Maine. "In the second quarter, we will see who is moving beyond their base and building a national fundraising base."

The primary reason for this cycle's heated first-quarter pace is Edwards' surprising showing in 2003, when he outraised Democratic front-runner John F. Kerry and catapulted to the top of the primary field.

But later quarters also have a history of reshaping primary contests. In 1999, George W. Bush raised $29.5 million between April and July 1 when he was governor of Texas, and within weeks, lesser-funded candidates began dropping out of the GOP race. In 2003, Howard Dean pulled in $15 million in the third quarter, dramatically reshaping the primary's leading candidate roster and elevating the war in Iraq as an issue.

Republican Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is trying to emerge as his party's candidate of choice for conservatives much as Dean captured the Democrat's liberal wing. "The debates are going to really start showing what the candidates are about and, on those nights, we're not going to be wearing name tags with how much money we raised," Huckabee said.

Even so, in these final hours of the first quarter, the candidates are still racing for last-minute donations.

Huckabee will hold a Washington fundraiser Thursday night headlined by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Clinton and Obama, as well as Romney, will close the quarter with events in Florida. Edwards continues a tour through West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio before winding up at a Saturday fundraising event in home state North Carolina.

Candidates hoping to become "tier jumpers" are also working the circuit and many have the ability to record their own eye-catching numbers in the first quarter. And former FEC chairman Michael E. Toner says that could draw fresh attention from the news media and donors "and suddenly you have to treat them like they're in the top tier."

Much attention will focus on Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who ended the year with nearly $5 million in his campaign account that can be transferred to his presidential coffers. He also can tap his wealthy hometown constituents and others in nearby New York. His ascendance to chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee provides an advantage by bringing him into regular contact with deep-pocketed lobbyists and executives.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration, has a history of generating cash. He raised $14 million for his reelection campaign last year. He also has a national fundraising network cultivated during his leadership of the Democratic Governors Association and the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

His campaign manager, Dave Contarino, says Richardson will have a "respectable" first quarter total. But his primary focus will be on the early primary states, particularly nearby Nevada.

"We believe that the governor has a lot of attributes that Westerners like and that the voters in Nevada will like. We're going to be expected to show something in Nevada, but that doesn't change the fact that in Iowa, where I realize that the press has zero expectations for the governor, and maybe New Hampshire, where they have zero plus one, we expect our candidate to do quite well," Contarino said. He added: "If we can show momentum and start to take off, then the money will follow."

Similar strategies are being adopted on the Republican side. Former Wisconsin governor Tommy G. Thompson, who served in the Bush Cabinet, raised $6.5 million for his last gubernatorial campaign in 1998, giving him a home state base to tap. On the presidential field, he is banking on a good showing in the Aug. 11 straw poll in Iowa to elevate his candidacy later in the cycle, says spokesman Tony Jewell.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has also been quietly working Iowa, hoping his deep roots in the agriculture community and long-standing ties to the conservative wing of the GOP will give him momentum. But he's got competition for the conservative moniker from Huckabee and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore.

Gilmore did not hold his first fundraiser until Monday, a week before the end of the first quarter. His campaign consultant, Christian Josi, said Gilmore raised $200,000 and will pick up the fundraising pace in the second quarter. However, he said, Gilmore is not aiming to catch the front-runners.

"Our challenge is to emerge as the (conservative) alternative, as the fourth front-runner," Josi said. "And to do that, frankly, we don't need $100 million."

TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton Communications Company

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fred Thompson

(this from the Washington Post. personally, i find all this chatter about thompson interesting. is he viable? obviously that decision is up to our primary voters but the larger discussion is the fact that the current TN governor phil bredesen will be term-limited out in the next election in which case bill frist will surely want to toss his hat in. if he doesn't, then maybe it's fred thompson. either way, both men are "power players" in tennessee and what better way to cement your reputation and build chatter around your future gubernatorial run then to have the national media hunt you down for POTUS in '08?

i'm just sayin'...something to think about...)

Fred Thompson: Man About Town
That Fred Thompson really gets around!

After having lunch Monday at the Mayflower hotel restaurant with Republican Party master strategist Ed Gillespie, the actor and former Tennessee senator met for three hours Tuesday at the same location with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also of Tennessee.

The back-to-back meetings underscore just how serious Thompson is about mulling a run for the presidency. And who wouldn't run after managing to place third among GOP presidential candidates without even lifting a finger? Click here to see the new USA Today/Gallup poll, which has Thompson - an undeclared potential candidate - ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and others, trailing only former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Eric Euland, a former top aide to Frist when he was Senate majority leader, confirmed that Thompson sought Frist's guidance this week.

"Sen. Frist has been talking to lots of old friends whenever he is in town, including Sen. Thompson, whose common-sense conservative credentials are part of the national conversation Republicans are having now about the 2008 race as they examine the field and the positions of various folks ready to carry the party's banner forward to keep taxes low, bring spending under control, see continued economic growth and new jobs created, respect life and succeed in the war on terror."

A Frist confidant familiar with the meeting between Thompson and Frist said he thought Thompson was "deadly serious" about learning as much as he could from Frist, who had considered a run for president himself and who, as the former top Republican in the Senate, is a proven fundraiser and has a Rolodex full of donors' names.

The source, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing sensitive political matters, said the two former Volunteer State senators had a "good conversation" and now consider themselves "friends," despite some tension in the past when they served together in the Senate, where Thompson, a recognizable face from television and movies, naturally got more media attention that Frist, a no-name heart surgeon.

A close Thompson confidant, meanwhile, told The Sleuth that Thompson has "the luxury of sitting back and waiting" before jumping in the '08 waters. And while the former senator has been "bombarded" with requests to appear on TV shows to discuss his potential candidacy, the source said, he's going to "wait and see how things develop."

Former Tennessee GOP Sen. Howard Baker, who is urging Thompson to run, feels that with no clear frontrunner in the GOP primary field, and with Thompson's name and face recognition, he would be a viable contender, according to the Thompson confidant.

"But if we're wrong and McCain or Guiliani jumps ahead and is really rolling along, [Thompson] probably won't get in at all," the source said.

Michael Madigan , a partner at the law firm Akin Gump who served as chief counsel to Thompson in the Senate, said he didn't know about Thompson's meeting with Frist and couldn't comment on if or when Thompson might enter the presidential race.

He did, however, say that Thompson is "giving thoughtful and serious consideration" to running and that "Fred is unique in that he has both the leadership and charisma to inspire people and the intellectual goods to back it up."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dems perspective: "More Than You Wanted to Know About Health Care"

(i know i've been a slacker about posting but there has been so much going on. i got a promotion, yeah, but back to the foremost domestic issue: healthcare. this is what the dems have to say about that...from the politico)

More Than You Wanted to Know About Health Care

By: Roger Simon
March 24, 2007 10:16 PM EST

LAS VEGAS -- Because you did not want to spend your Saturday sitting in a room for three hours listening to Democratic presidential candidates tell you how they are going to provide universal health care for America, Politico did it for you.

The candidates appeared in a forum sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was moderated by Karen Tumulty of Time magazine.

Here are the highlights in the order that the candidates appeared:


The former senator from North Carolina got a tough first question from Tumulty. How could he do two “all-consuming” things at once: Both run for president and deal with his wife’s incurable cancer?

“We take our responsibility to serve our country very seriously,” Edwards, whose wife attended the forum with him, replied. “We want to serve. Both of us. Which is why we made the decision to go forward.”

Then he added: “I think we are getting far too much credit when you look at all the millions of women struggling with what Elizabeth has without her great health care coverage. A lot of women with exactly the same diagnosis as Elizabeth had to get up the next morning and go to work.”

What is his plan?

“I would cover all Americans. There would be shared responsibilities: Employers must cover their employees or pay into a fund. The government would create health care markets and you could choose your health care provider. Some would be private and some would be Medicare-plus -- kind of single-payer (i.e. government-run) plan. Everyone in America will be required by law to be covered by a health care plan.”

How much will it cost and how will he pay for it?

Edwards said his plan will cost $90 billion to $120 billion per year in government costs. The money would come from tax increases, though he prefers the phrase “additional sources of revenue.”

“I do not believe you can have universal health care without finding additional sources of revenue,” he said. “You don’t get universal health care for free."

When will we get it?

In his first term.

Most intriguing line:

“Some candidates say they will provide health care, improve the environment, end poverty, and eliminate the federal deficit. They probably have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, too. America needs a president who is honest and honesty starts right here.”


The governor of New Mexico said, “We spend $2 trillion a year on health care and 31 percent of that is spent on bureaucracy and red tape. We must devise a strategy that, first of all, does not create any more bureaucracy.”

What is his plan?

All Americans should be able to purchase the same coverage as members of Congress and the president. Americans 55 and over should be able to purchase their coverage through Medicare. Veterans would have access to health care “anywhere they want, anytime they want.”

How much will it cost and how will he pay for it?

Richardson did not give a cost. As to paying for it, he said: “Get out of Iraq and put the $400 billion we are spending there into human needs. Reduce and eliminate inefficiencies (in the health care system). This is a plan that could be paid for without any new taxes."

When will we get it?

“With a Democratic president and a stronger Democratic Congress, the plan I outlined will be achieved in my first year as president.”

Most intriguing line:

“I just signed a statewide smoking ban in New Mexico (banning smoking in bars, restaurants, stores, and workplaces). I would do that as president.”


The junior senator from Illinois admitted he does not yet have a health care plan but said he will announce one in the next few months.

“The basic principles,” he said, “are everybody is in it, there has to be more money for prevention, and some form of pooling of costs and risks. If we have another forum in a few months and my plan is still not on my Web site, I will be in trouble.”

How much will it cost and how will he pay for it?

Obama did not mention cost, but said, “I think we are going to have to put some money in on the front end. I think we can make the system more efficient and get a lot of money out of the system. I haven’t foreclosed on needing additional revenues, but we should not underestimate the amount of money that can be saved.”

When will we get it?

He didn’t say.

Most intriguing line:

“Every four years, somebody trots out a health care plan. The question is do we have the political will and sense of urgency to actually get it done. I want to be held accountable to get it done.”


The junior senator from New York said, “A lot of people like what they have now. We don’t want people feeling that government will come in and tell me what to do and what doctor I want to go to. We will give people a choice. We have to look at that as a framework.”

What is her plan?

“I am in favor of universal health care coverage that brings in the 47 million who are uninsured and that begins to guarantee coverage to those who already have insurance. Insurance companies spend a lot of money trying to avoid insuring you and if they insure you, they try to avoid paying for the health care you need. Every health insurance company will have to insure everybody with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.”

How much will it cost and how will she pay for it?

She did not give the cost. She said: “There will be some investments, but when I talk about how much money we need to spend, I cannot see us spending more money as a national expenditure without modernizing, ending discrimination, and promoting wellness. I don’t think we should say we will put more money into a system that is broken.”

When will we get it?

At a forum in Carson City, Nev., last month, Clinton said: “President Kennedy said he wanted a man on the moon by the end of the decade. I want universal health care coverage by the end of my second term.”

On Saturday, in Las Vegas, she was less clear as to her timetable. “I think we are all going to start as soon as possible,” she said. “Make no mistake, this will be a series of steps.”

Most intriguing line:

“I vaguely remember being young.”


The senior senator from Connecticut reminded the audience that the United States “ranks 26th in life expectancy and 28th in infant mortality, yet we account for more than 50 percent of the money spent worldwide on health care.”

What is his plan?

Dodd said his plan has four principles: universality, increased emphasis on prevention, expanding Medicare and Medicaid, and increasing the use of modern technology to lower health care costs.

How much will it cost and how will he pay for it?

He did not say how much it will cost. He did say, “We can pay for it if we can get rid of permanent tax cuts for the top one percent of earners and get rid of the Iraq war, which is costing us $2 billion a week.”

When will it happen?

“I am impatient. I will make this the first order of business in a Dodd administration. I would want to see it far sooner than four or eight years.”

Most intriguing line:

“My house is a Petri dish. One of my children has strep throat and another has some kind of adenoidal infection.”


The congressman from Ohio wants a single-payer health care system. He didn’t deal with costs or say when it would be achieved. But he did say he would fight for it no matter what the odds.

“What if Lincoln had decided there was just too much resistance to emancipation?” he said. “Think if suffragettes said there was too much resistance to women voting. Think if Martin Luther King had said we can only push so far for civil rights.”

Most intriguing line

“You need a president who didn’t fall out of a Christmas tree. You need a president who doesn’t have a key in the back being wound up by special interests.”


The former senator from Alaska wants a single-payer plan that uses vouchers issued to every American. But he is really running for president to promote a plan for direct democracy that would allow citizens to enact laws without having to rely on Congress.

Yet, when asked to explain how that would work, Gravel said: “I don’t want to take the time to go through the whole process. It is a national ballot initiative. It is revolutionary. It is out of the box.”

Most intriguing line:

“You can’t have everything you want. You can’t have a burp and run for the doctor.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Huizenga endorses Romney

(from Hotline)

Normally, the addition of a single name to a roster of 77 fundraisers wouldn't be noticed, but this is different: Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney has won the support of one of the most high profile, influential entrepreneurs in all of Florida -- a major GOP fundraiser to boot. This get will earn him some positive Sunshine State press. H. Wayne Huizenga is #153 on the list of Forbes's 100 richest Americans. His nickname in South Florida: "King Midas."

H. Wayne Huizenga Is The Creator Of Several Corporations, Including Three Fortune 500 Companies – Waste Management Inc, Blockbuster Video And AutoNation. He is the owner of the Miami Dolphins and, with the franchising of the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers, was the driving force behind the introduction of baseball and hockey to South Florida. Huizenga is a renowned philanthropist whose beneficiaries include Nova Southeastern University where the business school carries his name.

The Washington Post writes on Romney's hair!?!!

from the esteemable Washington Post, a discourse on the hair of Mitt Romney and two of his top aides:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gov. Romney names Senator Stewart \iverson as Adviser to Iowa Campaign

Governor Mitt Romney Names Senator Stewart Iverson As Adviser To Iowa Campaign

Thursday, Mar 15, 2007
CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288 - 6390

Boston, MA – Governor Mitt Romney has named former Senate Majority Leader Stewart Iverson (R-Dows) as an adviser to his presidential campaign in Iowa.

"Stew is a proven leader at the Statehouse and I am pleased to have him as an adviser on my campaign," said Governor Romney. "He has a long-standing reputation at the Statehouse, and across Iowa, for his unflinching conservatism and fiscal responsibility. He will be an important part of my team as we continue building our momentum with enthusiastic, grassroots Republicans."

Iverson served as the Iowa Senate's top-ranking Republican from 1997-2006. Most recently, Iverson was a top Iowa adviser to Governor George Pataki's 21st Century Freedom PAC.

On today's announcement, Iverson said, "Governor Romney is a proven conservative leader and will continue his strong leadership for our great nation. I look forward to working with Governor Romney and his strong Iowa organization."

Background On Stewart Iverson:

Stewart Iverson Has Had A Distinguished Career In The Iowa Legislature. Iverson served in the Iowa House from 1989-1994, and the Iowa Senate from 1994 to 2006. He was instrumental in securing Republican control of the Senate in the 1996 elections. From 1997-2006, Iverson served as the top-ranking Republican in the Senate. From Dows, in north-central Iowa, Iverson is a leader in the agricultural community, where he managed his own farm and worked with seed companies to market their products to buyers. He has been active in a number of agricultural and civic boards, and was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. Most recently, Iverson served as a top adviser to Governor George Pataki's 21st Century Freedom PAC.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Romney on Hannity and Colmes last night

(The Governor did great last night. Poor Governor Romney. He looks more tired now then two months ago...actually, I feel sympathic towards all the POTUS candidates. I can't imagine the level of stress and exhaustion they must feel. NY Times had a good article about the ramped up primary campaign yesterday. Read it here:

But first, Mitt Romney was on "Hannity & Colmes":

On his standing in the polls: "It's way too early to be looking at polls. This is very, very early in the presidential process. People start concentrating on these elections and making opinions in the fall. And by the fall and December, I'll be building my strength. Actually, there have been a lot of people in the past who have followed the same course. John McCain was one of them, Bill Clinton, of course. So front-runners usually have a difficult time, and I'm expecting that to happen in this election's case, as well."

FNC's Hannity: "[Giuliani]'s pro-choice. He has said he would appoint originalist justices like Scalia, and Thomas, and Alito. On that issue of judges, is that the type of justice you'd be looking for?"

Romney: "Well, of course, we're all going to talk about appointing judges that will follow the law and not legislate from the bench. But being pro-life is, of course, broader than just the kind of judges you appoint. There's legislation, which month to month and year to year comes forward, that can either protect the sanctity of time of can take it away. As governor, I had several measures that came to my desk, which affected life. And they were not court decisions; they were legislative decisions which I faced as governor. And if you're pro-life, then you're going to come down on the side of life. And if you're pro-choice, you'll take the other direction. And it's something where my record is clear. When my legislature tried redefine when life began, I said no. When they said they were going to clone human embryos for research purposes, I said no. When they said that they were going to block the education of our kids on abstinence in school, I said no. So we're going to be able to define ourselves based upon our positions on issues, and people can decide where they line up" (FNC, 3/12).

Friday, March 9, 2007

Clinton foe Gingrich admits impeachment-era affair

(i admire gingrich for confessing and owing up to this but i also wonder the motivation? is he trying to let the media hammer him on this issue before he announces for the presidency or...well...does he trying want to cleanse himself and find redemption on this issue? either way, presidential politics is a tough game. shoot! politics period is tough!)

Clinton foe Gingrich admits impeachment-era affair
By Randall Mikkelsen
Friday, March 9, 2007; 8:28 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Newt Gingrich, who led the U.S. House of Representatives as it prepared to impeach Bill Clinton in a sex-and-perjury scandal, acknowledged in an interview released on Friday that he was having an affair at the time.

Gingrich, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, was asked by James Dobson of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, whether he was engaged in an extramarital affair when former President Clinton was involved with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"The honest answer is 'yes,"' Gingrich said in an interview released on the group's Web site. "But it's not related to what happened."

The affair has been widely reported previously.

Referring to his efforts as House speaker to oust Clinton, a Democrat, Gingrich said he was not judging the president personally.

"I drew a line in my mind that said even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept felonies and you cannot accept perjury in your highest officials," Gingrich said.

Gingrich stepped down as speaker and quit Congress in 1998 amid ethics allegations and Republican losses in midterm elections.

Although the House impeached Clinton in December of that year for perjury and obstruction of justice, he was acquitted two months later in a Senate trial.

Gingrich has been married three times. In an often-told story, he discussed divorce details with his first wife, Jacqueline, while she was recovering from cancer surgery.

In 1981, he married Marianne Ginther, and they were divorced in 2000. Later that year he married a young congressional aide, Callista Bisek.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Congressmen Conaway endorses Gov. Romney

(yeah for more Texans showing luv for Governor Romney)

U.S. Representative Mike Conaway Endorses Governor Mitt Romney

CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288 - 6390

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX) announced his support for Governor Mitt Romney. Representative Conaway will be joining the 23 other members of Governor Romney's Congressional Whip Team.

"I am honored to support Governor Romney and his vision of a stronger America. He shares the values of the people of my District – a belief in strong families, a strong military and lower taxes. A man of deep character and integrity, Governor Romney is the only conservative candidate who can bring real change to Washington. I am proud to be a part of his team," said Representative Conaway.

Welcoming Representative Conaway's endorsement, Governor Romney said, "I am pleased to have the support of Representative Conaway. Our country faces a new generation of challenges. The solution is not more government but to call upon the strength of people in places like West Texas. We are building a strong network in Texas and I am gratified that Representative Conaway will be serving on my campaign."

Background On U.S. Representative Mike Conaway:

Representing The 11th Congressional District Of Texas, Representative Conaway Has Demonstrated Strong Leadership In Washington And Is Currently An Assistant Republican Whip. A CPA, he has been a vocal proponent of fiscal responsibility, a simpler and fairer tax system, accountability in government and reducing the national debt. Representative Conaway currently serves on the House Agriculture, Armed Services, Budget and Republican Party Committees. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and an Army veteran, he has taken steps to support the fight against militant Jihadists. Representative Conaway served as Chief Financial Officer of Bush Exploration.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Cardenas does Romney radio ad for Spanish-speaking voters

(sorry. it's been a crazy few weeks. not that it matters b'ce the only people who read this are my room-mates. haha.)

BOSTON (AP) -- Presidential contender Mitt Romney has tapped a prominent Cuban- American Republican in Florida for his first radio ad targeting Spanish-speaking voters.

Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a close ally of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, describes Romney as a friend of the Hispanic community and an ally in its drive for a Democratic Cuba.

"It is a difficult time in the world, in the Americas, and in our Cuba in transition," Cardenas says in his native Spanish during the spot, which promotes Romney's speech Friday at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Miami-Dade County. "Mitt Romney understands the dynamic of Cuba."

During an appearance in Florida last month, Romney declared he supported the current U.S. embargo on Cuba to avoid enriching Cuban President Fidel Castro, a Communist dictator he accused of disrupting peace and stability in the region.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading rival for the GOP nomination, similarly supports the embargo and has picked up the support of three prominent Cuban-American lawmakers, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, all Florida Republicans.

Romney has enjoyed the backing of several major Bush allies, including Ann Woods Herberger, who is a top Romney fundraiser, and Sally Bradshaw, who formerly worked as chief of staff to the Florida governor.

Last month, Romney announced a 77-person Florida finance committee, including Boca Raton developer Mark Guzzetta and former U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler of St. Petersburg.