With the eyes of the political world upon him, Mitt Romney staked out his position against big government and wealth redistribution at two fundraisers after a secretly recorded video landed him in hot water.
About 1,500 supporters of the Republican Presidential nominee paid as much as $50,000 per person to pack into fundraisers on Tuesday in Utah and Texas to hear Romney explain how he plans to speed the US recovery.
Many of them were using their smartphones to snap pictures or record Romney -- the very behavior that apparently led to the surreptitious video of the White House hopeful's comments at a private fundraiser in Florida in May.
This time reporters and camera crews were present as Romney framed the election as a choice between rival theories of the role of government and insisted he wanted to raise Americans out of poverty.
"(President Barack Obama's) approach is a government-centered America, where government takes more and more and gives to those who believe they need that help," Romney told more than 1,000 donors under twinkling chandeliers in an ornate hotel ballroom in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"We're a compassionate, caring people. We want to help those that are in need," he said.
"But we don't believe redistribution is the way to create a brighter future."
Romney made no mention of the video that went viral after being released by liberal magazine Mother Jones, but it had to have been in the back of many donors' minds.
In the clip Romney said 47% of Americans pay no taxes, are too dependent on government and would never vote for him.
"My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," Romney said in the video.
His aides kept a tight leash on the press pool inside the events, but one donor in Salt Lake standing near the press area offered comments to a reporter.
Rebecca Buckwalter said Romney's remarks on Tuesday were uplifting, but she turned somber when asked if she was upset about the video clips.
"Oh. Yes, I am," she said.
But she quickly added: "I think the media just likes to take things and cause the emotion to come up."
Romney is Mormon, and it was clear he was treating his final local fundraiser of the campaign in heavily-Mormon Utah as a friendly homecoming. Organisers planned for 850 donors for lunch; more than 1,100 came.
"I think I'm going to probably do OK in Utah," Romney quipped, although he urged supporters to call up acquaintances who voted for Obama in battleground states like Florida and Ohio.
"Give 'em a call. Tell them that you know me," he said.
"I need to get all the help I can."
A few dozen protesters marched and chanted slogans outside the hotel, holding up banners that criticised Romney's opposition to the DREAM Act, which would allow children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country legally.
The scene was more intimate in Dallas, Texas. Romney joined up with his wife Ann for a function attended by 500 well-heeled supporters.
T Boone Pickens introduced the Romneys, and -- as the garrulous oil magnate is known for speaking his mind -- reporters were not escorted into the modern-decor ballroom until Mitt and Ann had taken the stage.
Romney reiterated his opposition to "redistribution," accusing Obama of wanting to tax the rich to lavish money on social programs.
At the same time, the Republican candidate clearly sought to portray himself as a compassionate potential President, saying that families suffering hardship are not just statistics.
"These are our brothers and sisters, these are fellow Americans that are facing real challenging times," he said.
"I want to help our families across this country. I want to alleviate poverty," he added.
"I know what it takes, and I need your help."
Despite the video fallout, the Romney campaign insisted there was no planned policy change for fundraisers: a press pool can cover events held in public locations but media is barred from fundraisers at private homes.
As for possible new restrictions on recording devices to prevent a repeat of the fundraiser video, Romney's traveling press secretary Rick Gorka said simply: "We don't take their phones away."