NAPLES — The tinted windows of a shiny Ford Expedition concealed Mitt Romney as he rolled into the Naples Yacht Club on Tuesday.
But the gaggle of reporters squinting into the SUV at noon knew it was Romney's tall frame in the shadows, hastily joining hundreds of Neapolitans for a quick fundraiser.
The pit stop — at which he likely picked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations — lasted little more than an hour and occurred en route from Miami to Tampa on a Florida campaign swing.
He posed for photos and met personally with a few "VIP" guests before speaking generally to as many as 200 supporters about jobs and the economy, according to attendees spilling from the club's parking lot in luxury cars. Lunch, they said, was chicken and salad.
Except for the news vans parked along 14th Avenue South, little else betrayed the presence of the GOP frontrunner.
"He was crisp with his answers. Just an all-around good talk," said Dave Thompson, of Naples, who attended the event.
Opponents have criticized Romney as being out of touch with average voters. And even conservative commentators have groaned that Romney smacks of the political establishment at a time when being a Washington outsider is a rhetorical asset.
His visit to Naples comes less than a week after his fiercest rival at the moment, Newt Gingrich, came to Naples for two days. A town hall meeting on Friday and a book signing on Saturday morning were free and open to the hundreds who arrived.
Gingrich also attended a private fundraiser Friday night, but his campaign did not respond to questions about it.
Other Republican candidates, including Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum, have been to Naples at some point in their 2012 campaigns.
Access to Romney's private event Tuesday was restricted to guests. Reporters waiting outside the club's gates were scolded by a valet driver for "standing on private property."
Francis Rooney, a Naples resident and a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican who hosted Romney, could not be reached Tuesday. He said Monday those invited were asked to donate as much as they could, up to the legal campaign donation limit of $2,500.
Although Romney's stop in Naples was brief and private, he made two other Florida stops, delivering speeches at a food market in Miami and at the Port of Tampa.
Campaigning in Florida is often seen as a luxury among the GOP candidates, many of whom have scaled back their presence here and chosen to focus on earlier-voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Florida is the fifth state to hold a presidential preference election, on Jan. 31.
"It's almost like every other campaign is focused on this slingshot strategy with having to win one or two other states and then coming into Florida with momentum," said Brett Doster, a top adviser for Romney's Florida campaign.