Washington (CNN) – Top donors and bundlers to Mitt Romney's campaign gathered at a retreat in New York City Tuesday where they received a briefing from top officials on the state of the race, heard from some of the nation's leading CEOs about the economy, and got reassuring words from top surrogates, including Ann Romney, Gov. Chris Christie, (R-New Jersey), and Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Florida).
The event is a three day gathering of some of the campaign's largest financial backers and is being held in conjunction with Tuesday's second presidential debate in nearby Hempstead on New York's Long Island.
VIEW EVENT INVITATION HERE
Watch CNN's coverage of Tuesday's presidential debate starting at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV, CNN.com and via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Web users can become video editors with a new clip-and-share feature that allows them to share favorite debate moments on Facebook and Twitter. Click here for 13 reasons to watch the debate only on CNN.
Ann Romney told the group, estimated at around 400, that she doesn't pay attention to stories about her husband in newspapers, nor does she focus on public polls. The candidate's wife said she knew things were going well because crowds at campaign rallies are getting bigger and bigger, according to one participant.
As part of the retreat, attendees participated in a "dialing for dollars" event where, in a span of 45 minutes, they had a goal of raising $2 million for use directly by the campaign, rather than by the "Victory Fund," where some proceeds are directed to other Republican entities.
Key campaign staff, including pollster Neil Newhouse, campaign manager Matt Rhoades and senior adviser Ed Gillespie briefed the group, talking about some of the recent polls that show a more positive trajectory for the Romney side. They also said one emphasis in the coming weeks will be trying to build support among women, a key constituency this year. While some polls have showed the Republican nominee doing better among women, the Obama campaign has pointed to other surveys showing the president with a large lead in swing states among female voters.
As they delivered a final pitch to the key financial backers to go out and build support for the campaign, the staffers told the group they believe momentum is on their side. They said while they expect the president to be more aggressive and to use some attack lines in Tuesday's debate that he didn't use in the first showdown, they reassured the group that Romney is always prepared for his rival's retorts.
Organizers also played videos from Rubio, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia) on how essential their states are in November's election, and how they thought Romney would win in them.
The event kicked off Monday evening with a high-profile dinner on the Intrepid, a former aircraft carrier, which is now a museum.
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Donald Trump attended the dinner. Ryan spoke briefly to the attendees, thanking them for their efforts, talking about the importance of their support and asking them to keep it up for three more weeks, according to one participant.
As of now Romney is not scheduled to be present at any of the retreat events attended by members of the "Founding Partners and Members" (who have given the campaign a minimum of $50,000) or bundlers known as "Stars and Stripes" (who have raised a minimum of $250,000 for the campaign).
The Republican nominee, who was in Boston finishing up debate prep, did speak by taped video to the Monday dinner thanking them for their support, according to the participant. He appeared with Sen. Rob Portman, who was acting as President Barack Obama during the practice sessions.
Both Ryan and Romney singled out Spencer Zwick, the campaign's finance chairman, for doing such an "incredible job" in raising money and keeping the campaign competitive with the Obama re-election effort on the financial front.
Romney's team raised $27 million online so far in October, seeing a surge of small dollar donations following his well-received first debate performance. That debate helped reassure some wary donors about the state of Romney's campaign.
On Monday the Romney campaign, together with the Republican National Committee, announced they raised $170 million in September – their largest joint monthly total. Obama and the Democrats said they raised a record $181 million last month for the president's re-election effort.
"With 22 days until the election, we continue to rely on your support in the final push to victory. These contributions allow us to deliver Governor Romney's message and execute an effective ground game in the important swing states," Zwick wrote to members of the campaign's national finance committee Monday to announce the total.
CNN first reported last month that donors and bundlers were being invited to the retreat.
Comedian Dennis Miller will be the star guest at a debate watch party Tuesday evening. The event, which is a follow-up to a similar one this summer in Park City, Utah, wraps up Wednesday morning.
Also on the CNN Political Ticker
– Colbert says he can't tell differences between Romney and Obama
– All tied up ahead of second Obama-Romney showdown
– Obama ad makes case for economic policies
– Romney message this week: 'A clear choice on debt and deficits'
– Largely hidden away, Obama reports debate prep 'going great'
get out of my state Romney and his crooks. Don't want you here.
It is be vaugue, distort Obama's record and say something different than what was said before. Isn't that simple?
willard and LDS = Lie...Deceive...Smear.......someone in the audience please ask him about his tax returns, the FEDERAL ONES.....cheater!!