Amid controversy over Mitt Romney's criticism of President Barack Obama's response to the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the Republican presidential candidate landed on Long Island Thursday for back-to-back private fundraisers in Oyster Bay.
Romney's plane touched down one minute before 4 p.m. at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, where Secret Service agents and Suffolk and Nassau police had been stationed for hours before the anticipated arrival.
The former Massachusetts governor was greeted by Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, Suffolk Conservative Party chairman Ed Walsh and Islip Conservative Party chairman Mike Torres, as well as officials from Hawthorne Global Aviation Services, the charter company whose field accepted Romney's plane.
The candidate waved to reporters and photographers, but did not answer their questions before getting into a black Suburban to go to Old Brookville, where guests paid as much as $50,000 for the chance to talk to Romney.
That fundraiser, at the sprawling home of Elizabeth and hedge fund manager Lee Ainslie, was attended by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, New York Republican chairman Ed Cox, Nassau Executive Edward Mangano, Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello and others.
Romney spent much of the event meeting with people and taking pictures, said state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who attended. Photos were $10,000 per person.
Economic issues, including the national debt and job creation, dominated the conversation, Zeldin said. Zeldin described the event as "a lot of people very motivated to elect a new president."
The second fundraiser was at the Muttontown home of Jodi and Robert Rosenthal, a former owner of the Islanders hockey team, who runs a private investment banking firm. Romney's motorcade arrived just after 6 p.m. and left shortly before 8 p.m.
A Romney spokesman said the candidate is scheduled to stay in Manhattan after the fundraisers and leave New York Friday.
Earlier Thursday in Fairfax, Va., Romney muted his attacks against Obama's handling of a diplomatic crisis and tried to refocus the campaign on the economy.
Romney delivered a spirited speech and television ad accusing the president of failing American workers. He did not repeat his assertions that Obama apologized for American values in response to Mideast protests sparked by an obscure anti-Muslim film made in California.
In Golden, Colo., Obama, on a campaign swing, told voters he was responding to the crisis by directing his administration to "do whatever is necessary" to protect Americans serving abroad.
With Tom Brune,
Celeste Hadrick and
wire service reports