Monday's visit from first-lady hopeful Ann Romney will almost certainly be the most lucrative political fundraiser in the region's history, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, said Friday.
Romney's planned luncheon at the Blair County Convention Center will likely raise several hundred thousand dollars for husband Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, while drawing party officers and business figures from surrounding counties, Shuster said.
"I'm 99 percent sure this is going to be the largest presidential fundraiser held in the area, in the district," he said in a phone interview. "This is going to be a big deal."
Shuster said Republican business leaders first approached him weeks ago, hopeful that they could secure Ann Romney - or even Mitt Romney - during one of the family's seemingly nonstop campaign trips.
"They came to me and said, 'Do you think we have a shot?' And I said, 'Absolutely,'" Shuster said. "The truth is, we pushed for about six weeks."
The luncheon's estimated 200 guests will include entrepreneurs, doctors and lawyers from throughout the area, Shuster said. Federal election laws limit individual donations to $2,500, but donors will likely be able to contribute to multiple campaign groups.
"They can write checks to [equal] seven, eight, 10 times that amount," Shuster said.
Contributors will travel from at least three surrounding counties, with possible visitors from as far as Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Blair County Republican Chairman A.C. Stickel said Friday.
And while detailed predictions aren't yet available, Shuster said, Ann Romney's visit will likely out-earn similar campaign events that both Shuster and his father, longtime area congressman Bud Shuster, had organized.
Ann Romney's Altoona stop won't be her only one in Pennsylvania: She'll stop in other cities throughout the state's western half, Shuster said.
With campaign-ad spending in Pennsylvania far below that in battlegrounds such as Ohio and North Carolina, the state is serving as something of a bread basket for Romney's and President Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, he said. A recent swing through the Philadelphia area netted millions for Romney's run.
But both Shuster and Stickel dismissed suggestions that Pennsylvania's votes are a lost cause for Romney. Residents will likely see a renewed round of campaigning as the Nov. 6 deadline approaches, the congressman said.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.