On July 23, at the end of a day of fundraisers, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney sat down for dinner in Bel Air with about 75 members of the local Jewish community who reportedly paid $50,000 per couple to dine with the former Massachusetts governor.
Not that Romney ate anything.
“He doesn’t eat,” said Fred Sands, who attended three of the Romney fundraisers in Southern California that day and hosted the dinner at his home in Bel Air. “At the lunch in Malibu, he had some gazpacho.”
Sands said the Jewish community fundraiser brought in $1.5 million; the Romney campaign said the day’s total take was about $10 million, according to The Huffington Post.
Sands, who describes himself as “very conservative,” supported Texas Governor Rick Perry in the Republican primary. He is singularly dedicated to preventing President Barack Obama from being reelected, and has since come around on Romney.
“He’s gotten much better as a speaker,” Sands told The Journal on Tuesday. “He’s very passionate and focused – an impressive man.”
Romney started the day with a morning breakfast in Irvine where, according to The Huffington Post, he offered a measured (if somewhat oblique) response to the mass shooting in Colorado over the weekend, saying that in “a time of trauma and trial,” Americans should act locally.
Romney himself is about to go global, though, set to visit England, Israel and Poland over the next week.
Accordingly, Romney devoted part of his remarks at the Jewish community fundraising event to declare his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, and to accuse the President of not doing enough for Israel during his first term.
“He [Romney] said he doesn’t think this President really is focused on Israel,” Sands said. “He hasn’t been there since he was President.”
According to Sands, Romney said he was looking forward to meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the two worked together at a consulting firm in the 1970s.
Even on the eve of his trip overseas, however, the central thrust of Romney’s Presidential campaign – that he, if elected, would be friendlier to business than Obama has been – was very much in evidence at his Southern California appearances.
At an appearance in Costa Mesa on Monday morning, Romney sat with a group of CEOs in front of a backdrop with the words “We Did Build It!” a reference to a comment made by Obama earlier this month in which the President said the words “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Romney and his allies have focused their attention solely on those words, paying no attention to the context in which they were delivered. Speaking in Roanoke, Va., on July 13, Obama pointed to what government has done to help many businesses thrive, including building infrastructure like roads and bridges, investing in teachers and the education system and sponsoring research that has led to technological advances, including the Internet.
The Associated Press said Romney and his allies were taking the comment “wildly out of context.”
Still, Sands felt the remark was indicative of Obama’s general ideological stance. “I think it was who he is,” Sands said. “He was tired, and he spoke from his heart.”
Those who arrived at Sands’s home for the Romney fundraising dinner on Monday would have had to walk past another poster referencing Obama’s comment. Hanging in the entry hall of his home, Sands said, was a poster that read, “You didn’t build that,” which included a photo of the President sitting with his feet up.
(One such image – featuring a picture of Steve Jobs introducing the iPod—could be found on an online message board.)
“I built a huge company,” said Sands, who is the chairman of a firm that acquires and redevelops under-performing regional malls and large shopping centers and also runs a private equity fund that occasionally buys troubled businesses and companies. “I never got any help from the government.”