BOSTON - Mitt Romney wowed the Republican presidential field with an eye-catching fundraising total and an innovative "National Call Day" earlier this year, but his campaign staff tried to lower expectations of a repeat as he gathered top fundraisers in Boston Monday for a final push before the second quarter ends later this week.
Fewer fundraising trips, more political speeches and downtime to prepare for the campaign's first two nationally televised debates of the primary campaign will make it hard to replicate the $21 million raised from January through March, said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.
Romney also donated $2.35 million to his campaign during the first quarter, giving the former Massachusetts governor a total of $23 million in receipts _ the most in the Republican field. The second quarter ends Saturday.
"The possibility of Fred Thompson getting into the race has also made it more competitive fundraising this quarter," Madden said of the former Tennessee senator and conservative who is expected to formally enter the GOP race early next month.
Nonetheless, Romney is aiming to maintain pace with his rivals, in part by holding his second National Call Day. About 300 supporters from around the country met in Boston for a phonebanking effort from the floor of the TD Banknorth Garden, the 13,000-seat arena that is home to the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.
Many in the group convened Sunday for a barbecue at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
The participants were charged with calling members of their social and business circles, trying to entice them to donate to the Romney campaign. All donated their own travel and lodging expenses.
The call day follows a similar effort last month to enlist 24,000 new campaign supporters, either donors, volunteers or activists willing to display a sign or bumper sticker. The campaign said it snared 30,000 people.
"What we've tried to focus on this quarter is building out our infrastructure to sustain the growth of the campaign," Madden said. "By adding 30,000 people through `Sign Up America,' that is essentially a pool of supporters we can go back to and look to sustain us as the campaign grows."
Romney also tried to catapult off his first-quarter success by using the spotlight it attracted to boost his name recognition nationally, both through $4 million in paid ads and prominent profiles in the national media.
The candidate has been attending fundraisers an average of twice per day, from coast-to-coast, and after leaving Boston will visit Florida on Tuesday, New York on Wednesday, as well as Virginia and Pennsylvania on Thursday and Friday. He will forgo fundraising on Saturday to participate in a political event in Iowa.