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Romney rallies top donors with Utah retreat

Mitt Romney greets attendees at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Orlando, Fla.
Mitt Romney greets attendees at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Orlando, Fla.Charles Dharapak / AP

PARK CITY, Utah -- After two days of meetings, meals and hobnobbing with the candidate, his top advisers and leading figures of the Republican party here in this exclusive resort community, Mitt Romney's biggest donors and bundlers say they are fired up and ready to go.

Mitt Romney greets attendees at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Orlando, Fla.Charles Dharapak / AP

"I’m going to do everything that I can do. I’m going to bundle every penny I can get," said Michigan lawyer Rodger Young, a long time Romney supporter who, like the hundreds of other guests here, have raised or personally donated more than $50,000 to Romney's campaign. "I think I came here with the idea that we were all going to take on more finance responsibility and I’m certainly prepared to do that."

"It’s even more than hopeful," a donor from New Orleans said of the atmosphere at the retreat. "We are beyond that now."

It is precisely that spirit which Romney and his campaign are looking to capture with this weekend's retreat, designed as a rally, a reward and a launching pad for top donors to continue to support the campaign -- and get their friends and family to do the same.

To generate such goodwill, Romney's campaign invited the donors and their spouses here for two days of briefings on campaign strategy and policy issues, intermixed with opportunities to rub elbows with Republican stars like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, as well as the candidate and his family.

On Friday night, the campaign hosted a welcome dinner at Park City's Olympic park. Guests were ferried from their hotels by bus, up the mountainside, and treated to spectacular views and a cookout-style dinner where former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Secretary of State James Baker warmed up the crowd, and introduced Mitt and Ann Romney. The couple gave remarks and mingled with guests who were also entertained by Olympic ski-jumpers practicing their technique on the ramps and pools at the facility, which remains a training center for Olympic winter athletes.

Saturday's festivities began with a breakfast and included a strategy briefing from top campaign advisers. Among the highlights of the day, according to several donors who attended the event, was a lunchtime speech by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who received not one but two standing ovations for a speech one attendee described as "exhilarating."

Rice along with Ryan and Jindal are among the names tossed about as part of the weekend's other major storyline: with few exceptions, nearly every Republican thought to be under consideration to become Romney's partner on the ticket is also attending this event in some capacity. Sens. Bob Portman, R-Ohio, and John Thune, R-S.D., are on the guest list, as are former Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jeb Bush of Florida, as well as the current Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell.

The Romney campaign has been tight-lipped about the vice presidential vetting process, with only Florida Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed to be receiving a "thorough vetting."

But Romney's adviser in charge of that process, his former Chief of Staff Beth Myers, has also traveled to Utah, along with most of the top figures of Romney's high command in Boston, fueling speculation -- even among the donors and campaign advisers here -- that this weekend away from the rigors of the campaign trail may also figure in to Romney's vice presidential selection process.

Saturday evening and Sunday the event will wrap up with dinner, desert and dancing, according to a leaked copy of the agenda, and with the opportunity to play golf on Sunday at a private course in the area -- all designed to foster camaraderie amongst those most involved in financing Romney's campaign, and to get them excited about November.

To hear the donors tell it, the strategy seems to be working.

"Things are looking pretty darn good," Young said.