WASHINGTON -- Illinois may not be rich in votes for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- but it is full of political money -- and Romney expects to collect about $2 million Tuesday at fund-raising events in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
With Tuesday's take, Romney is poised to pull more money out of Illinois -- President Barack Obama's home state -- in 2012 than GOP 2008 presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did in 2008.
Illinois GOP presidential donors are clearly more energized in 2012 than in 2008. In Illinois in 2008 folks wanted to climb on the Obama bandwagon -- and the money for him flowed. Romney backers in Illinois see the playing field as more even in 2012 and -- with a few more checks -- will
raise more for Romney than they could muster for McCain.
Romney hits Elk Grove Village to deliver remarks about the economy at Acme Industries and then motorcades downtown for a lunch roundtable targeted to manufacturers at Harry Caray's -- priced from $10,000 to $75,800 per ticket. After that he hops over to Maggiano's a few blocks away for an event aimed at donors from the hospitality industry -- with the tab ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
The local haul for Romney comes on the news Monday that his campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $101.3 million in July -- thumping the joint Obama and Democratic National Committee total of $75 million last month.
"We got beat" was a message from the Obama campaign to supporters Monday afternoon urging them to contribute to help close the gap.
Romney's team has surpassed Obama in national fund-raising three months in a row. The recap: In May, Romney collected $76.8 million to Obama's $60 million; in June, Romney raised $106.1 million to $71 million for Obama.
Some of it is catch-up -- Romney has had the ability to join with the RNC for fund-raising only since the spring -- when it was clear he would become the GOP nominee.
"Once again, we see that for many people, this is more than a campaign, it is a cause," Spencer Zwick, chair of the Romney Victory National Finance Committee, said in a statement.
That's the first time I have heard the Romney White House bid likened to a movement, language often used about Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and a word I don't hear as much -- very rarely -- about Obama's 2012 re-election bid.
I was at a June 20 Obama campaign briefing here where a top official predicted that Romney and his SuperPAC allies would outraise team Obama and his SuperPAC backers -- with the anti-Obama war chest hitting $1 billion, the Obama official said.
Romney last had a fund-raiser in Chicago in June -- picking up $3.3 million from an event at the Pump Room.
Romney's Illinois fund-raising has been bolstered by Obama 2008 donor-defectors -- one is Illinois Finance Committee co-chair business executive Susan Crown; another is hedge fund chief Kenneth Griffin, who gave to Obama and McCain in 2008. Griffin's more significant Romney help comes through his SuperPAC donations.
Obama returns to Chicago on Sunday for three fund-raisers -- with the premier event at $40,000 per person -- at his South Greenwood home. It will be the first time the grounds have been opened to donors.
A few blocks away will be a $5,000 per ticket event at the South Woodlawn home of pal Marty Nesbitt, the Obama campaign's treasurer, and his wife, Anita Blanchard. For dessert, it's a $1,000 per person reception at the home of Barbara Bowman -- whose daughter is senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
So far in the 2012 cycle, Illinois -- not counting any SuperPAC money -- has sent $27,490,158 to Obama according to the Federal Election Commission. Romney has collected $4,719,790 from the state.
In 2008, Illinois in all chipped in $28,831,361 for Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- compared with $6,820,418 for McCain.
After Tuesday, Illinois Romney fund-raisers will be on a trajectory to beat the 2008 GOP presidential total.
Helping will be another Romney Chicago event on Aug. 15 -- a $500-per-ticket funder headlined by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Beth Myers, who's leading the Romney vice presidential search team.
Obama's best ZIP codes for contributions for his 2012 bid are in Chicago: 60610, 60614 and 60611. Romney's top ZIP codes -- where he outraised Obama -- were Winnetka, 60093, followed by Lake Forest, 60045.