Republican Mitt Romney sent a strong message to his opponents for the party's 2012 presidential nomination Monday with a lucrative day of fundraising in Las Vegas.
The Romney for President Exploratory Committee said it raised $10.25 million in connection with the event at the Las Vegas Convention Center, when hundreds of backers dialed for dollars over eight hours.
Romney told supporters on a conference call that the event swung his campaign into a higher gear. "We're engaged in the fundraising process, and we're under way," he said.
The former Massachusetts governor is still a step short of formally announcing a second bid for the Republican primary nomination, but has been on an extensive fundraising tour and has started to step up his public appearances.
Romney's prospects may have gotten a boost in recent days after two other high-profile Republicans — former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump — said they would not run in 2012, winnowing the field of potential challengers to Democratic President Barack Obama's bid for re-election.
Monday's haul exceeded the $6.5 million in donations and pledges that Romney raised during a similar event in Boston in 2007, during his first, unsuccessful bid for the White House. In all, he raised about $60 million and spent an estimated $44 million of his own fortune on the 2008 campaign.
No defense budget cuts, Romney says
In a question-and-answer meeting on Facebook held during the Las Vegas event, Romney said he favored lower taxes on business and reducing government red tape as a way to power job creation.
Asked about ways to lower the national debt, Romney said he would cut federal spending but not cut the defense portion.
"I'm not going to cut the defense budget," he said.
By contrast, non-military discretionary spending "is going to have to be pulled way back," said Romney, and costly entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — must be put "on a pathway to sustainability."