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Fundraising Floodgates Opening For Romney

With Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the way, high-dollar Republican donors are able to open their wallets to both Mitt Romney's campaign and the RNC Victory Fund at joint fundraising events all over the country.

Several Romney fundraisers are now saying many of the big donors that had been staying "on the sidelines" in the primary are coming to their camp and writing big checks.

Romney is ramping up his fundraising schedule, focusing on events with high-dollar donors in the Northeast and elsewhere around the country, in between campaign stops.

A breakfast last week at the Marriott Marquis in New York City hosted by Jets owner Woody Johnson, smaller private lunches and dinners in Manhattan, and events in Florida, Connecticut, and Boston, have or will help fill the coffers ahead of the long road to November.

Upcoming fundraisers on May 16 and 17 in Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, and Boca Raton are expected to reel in millions for the effort.  The events will be tiered, arranged so that the more a donor gives, the more time he or she will get to spend with the presumptive GOP nominee.

Big names attending the Florida fundraisers included developer Al Hoffman, who, despite having been a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who bundled for George W. Bush, stayed on the sidelines during the primary until very recently.

A Romney backer in Florida, who asked not to be named, said in a Friday phone call that updated high-dollar donors and bundlers on the state of the campaign described the fundraising as "very, very positive."

This is welcome news for the Romney campaign, which, despite hauling in $87.45 million through the end of March - plus the $34.2 million the RNC has brought in, is still at a financial disadvantage against the $196.9 million that the Obama campaign has brought in through the end of March, and the $45.9 million the DNC has hauled in up to the same date.

Obama for America also has a 10:1 cash-on-hand advantage over the Romney campaign. Through the end of March, they had over $104 million cash on hand to Romney's $10 million cash on hand. The New York Times reported last week that the goal of the Romney campaign and the RNC was to raise $800 million by November, according to a memo they obtained.

At the New York events, there were the regulars - including attorney Phil Rosen, former chairman of Goldman Sachs and longtime Romney friend John Whitehead, as well as billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, who held a dinner at his Manhattan townhouse Thursday for Romney (first reported in The Daily Beast).

But, there were new faces as well, including developer and Republican Jewish Coalition co-founder George Klein, who had reportedly backed Newt Gingrich, and Cheryl Halpern, the former chair for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a one-time Rick Perry backer.

At these high-dollar fundraisers, donors are pledging $50,000 to $150,000, according to several in attendance across the country. The minimum expected for the small, more exclusive dinners is usually $75,000, but many are opening their wallets and writing much larger checks.

Rosen, the co-chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, has been fundraising for the campaign since last September and was closely involved in the events in the New York region.

"My personal goal is to provide whatever assistance I can to the campaign, whether it is raising money or giving advice," Rosen said. "And that's for two reasons: This nation desperately needs someone to fix the harm the current president is doing to the country and number two, Gov. Romney has the talent to turn the country around. He's as presidential as anyone I've seen and I've met five presidents…I see a tremendous amount of momentum in the campaign and the energy you find is just staggering, people are very excited -the excitement increases as time goes on."

The Romney campaign is visibly buoyed over the increased fundraising, and campaign spokesperson Ryan Williams says it's "another indication that Republicans are coalescing around Mitt Romney's pro-growth, pro-jobs message and quickly uniting to defeat President Barack Obama."

Mel Sembler, a Romney bundler and longtime GOP donor in Florida describes the stepped-up fundraising as just the next stage of the campaign.

"This is what happens in presidential campaigns in the general election," Sembler told ABC News. "This is when the money comes off the sidelines, gets into the game, gets involved if they are serious about wanting change… Money is nothing but voice."

A donor who helped to plan several of the New York events also described a coalescing of Republican financial backers going on, with an "equal number" of old and new donors at the fundraisers.

At the fundraisers, this same donor said Romney tells those gathered that "Obama is taking the country down the wrong road," and "We need to make a change."

A former colleague of Romney's at Bain Capital who now works for a New York City private equity firm was at the Marriott Marquis breakfast last week and has also attended several of the smaller dinners in New York City. He described Romney's pitch to the hundreds gathered as similar to what he says on the stump.

Coming up on the schedule: A May 20 event in ritzy Greenwich, Conn. Romney will be hosted by state senator and venture capitalist Scott Frantz at his home. About 500 people are expected at the tiered event, including former ambassador to Ireland Romney donor and supporter Tom Foley.

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