Establishment turns out for Romney breakfast fundraiser

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to a group of supporters during a visit to a GOP phone bank, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, in Terrace Park, Ohio.
AP Photo/Al Behrman
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
AP Photo/Al Behrman

Updated: 7:00 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON - This city's power players turned out in force for a breakfast fundraiser that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney headlined on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning.

The multitudes of lawmakers warmly greeting each other as they came and went from the event, held at the American Trucking Association, gave the impression of the Republican Washington establishment beginning to rally around a favored candidate. The guest list also included a large number of sharply dressed lobbyists and other large donors, who seemed already to be on friendly terms with the lawmakers in attendance.

Some of the breakfast-goers offered pointed criticisms of the flat-tax plan that Romney rival Rick Perry unveiled earlier this week. "I don't think it's possible, I don't think it's a good idea," private equity investor and Romney donor Scott Stewart said.

"I'm all for lower taxes, but I think you just -- the country would falter. You would be hemorrhaging your tax base if you were doing what Perry suggested, 20 percent, or what Cain suggested. I just don't think it's realistic."

James Moore, a hotel developer and former oil executive, agreed that a flat tax isn't necessary, and praised the more complex and nuanced economic plan offered by Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

"I just think we need to be more equitable in our taxes, and I think that's what the governor is for. I think we need to be pro-business and I think that's what the governor is for," he said.

Romney supporters at the breakfast expressed confidence that he will be able to win over the Republican Party's conservative base.

"He is a strong conservative who can appeal to independents and win elections," said former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, head of the American Action Network, whose political action committee spent $20 million helping conservative candidates in the 2010 elections. "If you don't win, you don't govern. He can win, and he can govern, and conservatives will be happy with that."

Another fundraiser for Romney, held the night before at a private home in McLean, one of Washington's tonier suburbs, netted $325,000, according to one Romney backer.