After Sen Majority Leader Bill Frist’s departure from the ‘08 field last month, I wrote that one of the most significant consequences would be the freeing up of the Tennessean’s donor base. Like Howard Baker and Lamar Alexander before him, Frist will likely never live in the White House. But had he made a run, Frist would’ve enjoyed some of the same solid financial backing that his Volunteer State predecessors did because of the considerable Republican money there is to be had in fast-growing Nashville and its surrounding suburbs.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, no stranger to capital, is now evidently seizing on this market. Per the respected, and well-connected, Tennessee blogger Bill Hobbs, we learn that Romney rubbed elbows with around 50 other Republicans last night in Brentwood, a wealthy and heavily GOP suburb outside Nashville. Notably, it was not a fundraiser for Romney’s PAC nor in honor of any local candidate. It was, as the Bush camp refers to them, a “friendraiser;” Romney was just making his pitch to potential, ah, clients.
What was more interesting about the event was the guest list — not only did it include the ususal assortment of state Rep’s and Members of Congress, but also two bloggers and a conservative radio talk show host. This comes on the heels of Romney’s attempts to push back on the recent revelations about his past stances on abortion and gay rights via us at NRO and FOX News. Bypassing “the filter” for what are viewed as more friendly mediums is, of course, nothing new (Romney makes plain his pleasure at the Old Media-New Media shift in the penultimate ‘graf of a story carried by, not incidentally, his chief Old Media tormentor).
Still, it is remarkable that Romney would reach out to bloggers and a conservative radio personality for such a private event. Such pre-announcement affairs where donors and activists are courted and cultivated have almost always been kept under wraps and out of public view by campaigns that haven’t yet officially started. If a candidate wanted a press hit from his stop in the area, he’d usually pay a visit to local paper; that was the most effective way to get your message out. But the times are a changin.’
Now instead of getting 750 words of “If I Should Decide To Run…” in the Tennessean, we have Romney talking up his efforts to build up a national finance base and explaining why he doesn’t do Sunday talk shows. And what does Team Mitt get? A Reagan comparison (at a time when he could use one) and largely favorable report that many a Tennessee Republican will see today along with, assumedly, a kind word or two on talk radio that will be heard by thousands of other Volunteer State GOPers. Oh, and probably a few more checks for that campaign that he may or may not launch.