GOP fundraiser jumps from Romney to Giuliani

Published March 22, 2007

In another sign of the intense Florida presidential campaign jockeying, a top Republican fundraiser is jumping ship from the Mitt Romney campaign to Rudy Giuliani's.

Richard Blankenship, a Jacksonville area investment banker and President Bush's former ambassador to the Bahamas, said he resigned from Romney's Florida finance team after becoming convinced Giuliani had broader appeal and said other Romney fundraisers in Florida could do the same.

Blankenship, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate, has raised and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for Republican efforts and frequently loaned his Cessna airplane to Republicans. He called Romney a wonderful person, but said he had concerns about the former Massachusetts governor's shifts to the right on a number of social issues.

"The changes in core beliefs gave rise to some concerns. You have to have an anchor in life," he said of Romney. "Mayor Giuliani has a firm, secure hold on his moral compass and how that effects his platform, rather than change to satisfy special interests in our party. The Republican Party needs to broaden its appeal beyond a few special interests."

Sally Bradshaw, a senior Romney adviser, said Romney "is clearly the true conservative in this race, and it's unfortunate that Blankenship has made a decision to go in another direction. At the end of the day, we hope to have him return to the fold."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727893-8241 or asmith@sptimes.com.