Attention Bush donors: You'll be getting a call
Howard Wilkinson and Cliff Peale report:
When John McCain landed Indian Hill business executive Mercer Reynolds this week, a long-time friend, fund-raiser and business partner of President Bush, it was a clear sign that the GOP establishment is getting behind his candidacy.
Reynolds, who raised a record $273 million as finance chairman of Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, will be one of a team of fund-raisers around the country given the job of building a war chest for McCain – a Republican who was not the first choice of many of the party’s major donors and fund-raisers.
"I’m trying to bring in those people who were my friends in the last campaign who have not signed on with the senator," Reynolds told the Enquirer on Wednesday. "So I’ll be calling them."
With a huge lead in the delegate count and President Bush’s vow that he would support him if he is the nominee, McCain is expected to garner support from most big Republican donors here, ranging from Reynolds’ business partner Bill DeWitt to Reds owner Bob Castellini – all of whom have long and close ties to President Bush.
Mike DeWine, the former U.S. senator from Ohio who is chairing McCain’s campaign in the Buckeye State, said Reynolds’contacts and fund-raising prowess would extend far beyond Cincinnati and Ohio.
“Mercer is the kind of person who can help Sen. McCain all over the country,’’ DeWine said. “He knows everybody.”
While some conservative leaders around the country have balked at the idea of McCain as their party’s nominee, Reynolds said Wednesday he is convinced that attracting money and support for McCain among Republicans is not a difficult sell.
"He’s a conservative in every sense of the word," Reynolds said in a telephone interview from Wyoming state. "He’s the most likely candidate to win the election. Also, he’s going to consolidate the president’s legacy in Iraq, and that’s important to conservatives."
Reynolds said he waited until Mitt Romney suspended his campaign before deciding to support McCain. "Once Romney dropped out, it became clear," he said. "I didn’t want to wait two or three more weeks."
Reynolds served as ambassador to Switzerland during Bush’s first term. He and DeWitt were the chief fund-raisers for Bush’s 2005 inaugural.
Eight years ago, when McCain battled Bush for the GOP nomination, Reynolds was an early financial backer of Bush as was most of the Cincinnati business community.
DeWitt and Reynolds have personal and business ties with Bush which go back to the 1980. They were partners with Bush in an oil exploration company named Spectrum 7 and, later, with Castellini and Cincinnati broadcasting executive Dudley Taft, were partners with Bush in the ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team.