Randy Levine, the president of the New York Yankees, supported Romney is 2012 but is currently uncommitted.
Texas developer Harlan Crow, a major donor in 2012 to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC, is also still on the sidelines.
Robert Grand, the Indianapolis-based managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg, raised more than $1 million for Romney during the 2012 cycle. He is also uncommitted, and confirmed in an email that he is waiting to see if Pence, the governor of Indiana, becomes a candidate.
Annie Presley, the national deputy finance director for George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, raised $53,000 for Romney during the 2012 cycle. She said she hasn’t heard from any candidates yet but likely will when they work their way around to her home state, Missouri. She is still uncommitted, and said she is impressed by both Bush and Romney.
“Either of them would make excellent presidents,” she said, but mused aloud about the possibility of a run by California businesswoman and former U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.
Van D. Hipp Jr., chairman of consulting firm American Defense International and a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said he thinks the array of choices “shows the strength of the Republican field.” He served on Romney’s finance team in 2012 but hasn’t committed to Romney in 2016.
“I’ve got several friends looking at it mighty strong. I think the world of Romney,” Hipp said, while noting his ties to other prospective candidates, including Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former New York Gov. George Pataki.
Add Graham, the U.S. senator from South Carolina, to Hipp’s mix, too.
“I’ve talked with some folks in South Carolina this past week who said they had gotten phone calls [from Graham] telling them, quote, to keep their powder dry,” he said. Hipp says he personally hasn’t yet heard from Graham, but added, "we go back a long ways and he’s a good friend of mine.”
Someone who has been in touch with Graham: David Wilkins, who leads the public policy and international law group at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.
Wilkins bundled $87,000 for Romney in 2012. He was the state chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 and was an ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush. “I have great admiration and respect for Gov. Bush, but until Lindsey makes a decision, a lot of us are — we’re for Lindsey Graham,” Wilkins said.
Despite modestly describing himself as “way down the totem pole” of fundraising, Wilkins acknowledged he’d heard from people representing multiple candidates, including Bush.
Christie, the New Jersey governor, has also scored former Romney fundraisers: billionaire Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone is one of them, according to news reports, as is Dallas investor Ray Washburne, who reportedly stepped down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee to headline Christie’s bid.
’I want to hear everyone out’
Gaylord T. Hughey Jr., a prominent campaign cash bundler from Texas, said he has heard from and met with “several” potential presidential candidates or their representatives.
None have yet won his support.
Hughey explained he’s looking for a candidate with “integrity and vision and policy positions that a majority of the voters can agree with … electability is obviously there but you also have to have a man of character and vision and principle that can be elected. I want to hear everyone out before I commit my time and resources to supporting an individual candidate.”
Hughey bundled more than $350,000 for Romney’s 2012 campaign. He also raised money for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another possible 2016 presidential candidate, when Perry ran for president during the 2012 election cycle. Furthermore, he raised more than $200,000 for Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, during his 2004 campaign.
Hughey has also contributed to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is also reportedly eyeing a presidential run.
Asked about the number of potential candidates with Texas ties, Hughey said, wryly: “They all have Texas ties to the degree they want to raise campaign funds.”
David Beightol, a lobbyist who attended the meeting with Bush, raised nearly $1.6 million for Romney’s 2012 campaign, the second-highest amount on the lobbyist bundler list.
“I’ve got a really difficult decision” between Romney and Bush, Beightol said.
Beightol said he has not yet heard from Romney’s team. As for Bush’s organization: “The work ethics and the team that he’s building is the most aggressive that I’ve ever seen at this stage.”
Others agreed the race was getting underway early.
“I don’t think any of these guys have gotten into serious fundraising yet,” said Ken Kies, a lobbyist with Federal Policy Group who raised nearly $73,000 for Romney. “They are at a relatively early stage. Having said that, I think things will pick up fairly soon.”
Kies says he remains uncommitted.
Former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, now the president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, said he, too, has deep ties to both Bush and Romney.
Graves raised nearly $1.8 million for Romney in 2012, the highest amount on the list of lobbyist bundlers disclosed by the campaign. He also met with Bush on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
He originally met Jeb Bush while working on former President George H.W. Bush’s 1980 campaign, which Graves describes as his “first political endeavor.”
Graves said he has heard from both the Bush and Romney camps and is still uncommitted.
“Those are two very fine public officials that we think have great executive skills and great potential to be great leaders of our country,” Graves said, adding that both would likely draw some support from the trucking industry.
He added that he doubts he’ll be wooed by candidates other than Romney or Bush, given his long relationships with both of them.
Along with Graves, other lobbyists who met with Bush on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., include:
- Lanny Griffith, the chief executive of lobby firm BGR Group
- J. Steven Hart, the chairman of law and lobbying firm Williams & Jensen
- Jeff Kimbell, a lobbyist who operates his own firm
- Former Rep. Susan Molinari, now a Google lobbyist
- Molinari’s husband, former Rep. Bill Paxon, a lobbyist with law and lobby firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
- Kevin O’Neill, deputy global managing partner for public policy at the law firm Squire Patton Boggs
- Ziad Ojakli, the head lobbyist for Ford Motor Co.
- Former Rep. Vin Weber of Mercury Public Affairs