romney arrives in Minnetonka beach: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waved as he headed to a fundraiser Thursday night at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach. An Orono police officer was at right. The reception drew more than 300 people who paid from $2,500 to $50,000 each, as well as protesters outside.
Mitt Romney came to Minnesota Thursday, looking to raise money -- and perhaps even more important, to generate some enthusiasm for his campaign.
"This is a campaign about the soul of America," Romney told hundreds of supporters in the ballroom of the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach. "I want to keep this country the shining city on a hill, the strong and vibrant nation that has inspired the nation and people all over the globe. I need your help to have that happen."
More than 350 people bought tickets to the Romney fundraiser -- tickets that started at $2,500 a head for a chance to stand and listen to his speech and ranged up to $10,000 per couple for a photo with the candidate or $50,000 per couple to join him at dinner afterward at a private reception in Shorewood.
The campaign declined to say how much money it raised Thursday night.
"You've written checks; I need you now to go out and find somebody who voted for Barack Obama -- there are a few here in Minnesota," Romney said, as the crowd laughed. "I need you to find them and convince them to join our team. Not because they're Republican or Democrat, but because this is the time to say what America is. ... And if you do, we're going to take back our country."
Romney's Minnesota trip came one day after Vice President Joe Biden visited the state on a campaign swing through Minneapolis and Rochester.
The crowd in the country club ballroom included former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and an array of past, present and aspiring GOP politicians. Former Sen. Norm Coleman introduced Romney.
"This is Mitt Romney's time," Coleman said to cheers and applause. "Barack Obama's time is over."
Romney took a moment to single out U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills, who earlier in the day had renounced his support for Ron Paul's GOP candidacy and officially endorsed Romney.
"I appreciate the fact that you're about to elect a Republican senator from Minnesota," Romney said.
In his speech, Romney repeated a claim he made earlier in the day while campaigning in New Mexico -- that he could make the U.S. energy-independent by expanding oil drilling and the use of domestic coal, gas and nuclear resources.
Besides expanded drilling, which Romney pledged would lower energy costs and bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas, he promised to balance the budget. He said he wanted to get "education right, and that means putting teachers and kids and parents first, and the teachers union behind." He also pledged to block tax increases.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the venue before Romney arrived. The Obama campaign greeted the GOP candidate's arrival with a reminder that this is a state where Romney finished behind Rick Santorum in the Republican caucus.
"The last time Mitt Romney visited the state in February, 72 percent of Republican caucus-goers chose a different candidate," said Kristin Sosanie, the campaign's Minnesota communication director. "Now today, after several years of campaigning and six months of laying out his current vision, less than one week from the Republican convention Minnesota Republicans still believe he's a weak candidate and are not ready to support him in Tampa."
Not so, said Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge.
"We're confident the Romney-Ryan ticket can win the hearts and minds of Minnesotans," Shortridge said. "Minnesota will be a key state this November. The numbers show that Minnesotans are frustrated with the Obama administration and its failed economic policies."
Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049