Perry courts potential fundraisers at LA meeting

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? Texas Gov. Rick Perry met privately Wednesday with potential fundraisers in Los Angeles as he neared a decision on whether to enter the 2012 presidential race.

About 30 people joined the conservative Republican at a hotel in the Century City neighborhood for an event coordinated by influential fundraiser Renee Croce, who helped raise millions of dollars for former California Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson.

Perry has been traveling the nation to gauge his support among party loyalists, elected officials and donors, while fashioning the framework of what could become a national campaign.

The Texas governor would join a wide-open GOP field, but a key issue is whether he can raise hundreds of millions of dollars to wage a 50-state presidential battle. Many deep-pocketed donors in California, a rich source of campaign cash, have been holding back their checks while the field takes shape.

Among Republicans in the contest, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the money race and reported an $18.4 million haul in the second quarter. President Barack Obama’s campaign aides have told donors privately that they hope to meet or go beyond the $750 million the campaign raised in 2008.

When it comes to financing a presidential campaign “it’s a numbers game,” said investor Michael Fourticq Sr., managing partner at Hancock Park Associates, one of the hosts of the meeting with the Texas governor.

For Perry, “I think the money is there,” Fourticq said.

Perry is on a two-day swing through California, where he planned a string of private meetings. It was his third trip to the nation’s most populous state since June 12.

He declined to answer questions as he rushed into a hotel conference room, saying “I’m late already.” When he left the hotel he avoided the main entrance, where a reporter and photographer were waiting.

Later in the day, Romney made a fleeting appearance in the city’s North Hollywood neighborhood, where he used a faded commercial strip as a backdrop to denounce Obama’s economic policies.

He defended his record as Massachusetts governor, saying unemployment climbed since he left office. And he sided with House Republicans on the ongoing debt showdown, backing a “cut, cap and balance” plan that conditions any increase in the government’s borrowing power on passage of a fresh wave of spending cuts and a balanced budget constitutional amendment.