SARASOTA -- A posh fundraiser benefitting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took place in Sarasota on Thursday, but he never appeared publicly.
Romney addressed an invitation-only VIP event at the Sarasota Yacht Club attended by several hundred, but avoided reporters and photographers, who were asked to leave the club’s property.
Some of those who did attend, giving a “suggested donation” of at least $250 per person, said Romney had cleaned up in the money department.
“It was a very strong fundraiser,” said developer Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities, who attended with his wife, Charlene.
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The Neals said they had contributed $10,000 to help the candidate.
Romney had presented a clearer message than previously, emphasizing jobs and the economy, Neal said.
“I think he will provide the economic leadership” to get the job done, Neal said of the former Massachusetts governor.
Charlene Neal said Romney seemed “much more inspirational” this time around, and better-focused on the economy than he was previously.
State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said the event had attracted “the usual suspect big-givers,” many of them from Manatee County, such as developer Carlos Beruff and state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.
The president of the Longboat Key Republican Club, Phyllis Black, also attended.
She said she found Romney impressive.
“This man is going to be our next president,” she said. “He has got such wonderful ideas, based on common sense.”
Fran LaCivita, a stay-at-home mom, said the candidate had talked about 20 minutes, and had listed seven steps to a strong economy.
He also spoke of what he said were failures of the Obama administration, and issues particular to Florida, such as the state’s 10.8 percent unemployment rate, she said, adding, “This is totally and completely unacceptable.”
Asked how much Romney’s campaign collected during the fundraiser, spokesman Ryan Williams said, “We don’t comment on our fundraising until the quarterly reports are due,” referring to campaign reporting requirements.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.