DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) — Facing criticism that he's too focused on raising campaign cash, Mitt Romney is about to launch what advisers call an "intense battleground state schedule." But on Saturday, the Republican presidential nominee focused exclusively on courting donors in a state that hasn't supported a Republican presidential candidate in almost a quarter century.
Speaking to roughly 650 supporters gathered at Grand Del Mar, a luxury hotel north of San Diego, Romney said his campaign schedule has been hectic.
"I'm not even going to be able to go home today," he said of his second home in nearby La Jolla. "We're just coming to town to see you and keep the campaign going. It's nonstop."
Later at fundraising event in the Los Angeles-area, Romney criticized President Barack Obama for failing to "fix Washington."
"The truth is, he has proven he cannot fix Washington from the inside," Romney said at an event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel that his campaign said raised about $6 million.
The former Massachusetts governor's schedule, particularly his focus on fundraising over campaigning in battleground states with voters, has drawn criticism from some Republicans who fear the campaign is moving in the wrong direction less than seven weeks before Election Day. President Barack Obama on Saturday campaigned in Wisconsin, which has emerged as a swing state, where he also raised money. Polls suggest that Obama has a narrow lead in several key states.
Romney adviser Kevin Madden defended the fundraising focus, while highlighting a shift in the coming days
"We're here raising the resources we're going to need to compete in all those battleground states through Election Day," Madden said. "That's also been matched with a really intense battle ground state schedule that's going to be coming up starting Sunday night. We're keeping very busy."
Over the last week, Romney has attended five public events and at least a dozen fundraisers.
Cognizant of the criticism, his campaign added a Colorado rally to his Sunday night schedule ahead of a three-day bus tour in Ohio. He'll also campaign in Virginia next week. All three states are considered highly competitive.
The shift comes as Romney works to get his campaign back on track.
Already facing reports of campaign infighting, Romney suffered another setback early in the week after his remarks surfaced in an unauthorized video declaring that almost half of Americans are dependent upon government and believe they are victims. On Friday, Romney released his 2011 tax returns showing income of $13.6 million, largely from investment income.
Romney seemed to be trying to move past his video-taped remarks on Saturday.
"This is a tough time," he told donors. "These are our brothers and sisters. These are not statistics. These are people. The president's policies -- these big-government, big-tax monolithic policies -- are not working."
Earlier in the week, conservative columnist Peggy Noonan called Romney's campaign "incompetent."
"Romney doesn't seem to be out there campaigning enough. He seems_in this he is exactly like the president_to always be disappearing into fund-raisers, and not having enough big public events," wrote the former Ronald Reagan speechwriter.
Romney's California fundraising chairman sought to ease donors' concerns that the GOP nominee's campaign was headed in the wrong direction. Thomas Tellefsen told the crowd at the Beverly Hilton he understood they are "probably feeling a bit worried" and frustrated by coverage of the 2012 race.
"I wanted to share some thoughts with you tonight. They can provide you with some comfort," he said. "Polls are not elections. The voters have not yet spoken."
Romney, who would be among the wealthiest presidents ever elected, has struggled to shed the image of an out-of-touch millionaire.
At the Saturday fundraiser in the San Diego-area, where donors paid as much as $25,000 to attend, Romney did little to help that image. He told the audience he spent the night before raising money at a San Francisco area mansion.
"Property up there is, I'm sure, very, very expensive. And we got to her driveway — it was at least a mile long, up and up, it's like, Oh my goodness, how in the world?" Romney said. "And then we came to the home, and it was like San Simeon, you know, the Hearst castle. It was this beautiful home with gardens, manicured gardens, and a pool and a topiary and so forth."
Romney charged that the president is taking America on a "pathway to become like Europe," adding a jab at his audience's home state.
"Europe doesn't work there. It's never going to work here," Romney said. "It's even possible we could be on a pathway to become California — I don't want that either."
He later said he was joking.
And before promising that he was done raising money in the San Diego area, Romney encouraged his California donors to help him reach voters in more competitive states.
"I need you to find someone who voted for Barack Obama, maybe in a swing state, and give him a call, and tell him to go to the polls and support this effort," he said.