JACKSON, Wyo. -- When Mitt Romney arrives Thursday at the gates of Teton Pines, a majestic Wyoming country club where captains of industry flock each summer to golf on an Arnold Palmer-designed course, his purpose will be greater than spending another evening separating rich people from their money.
Romney will be taking a big step toward becoming the official head of the Republican Party, as the presumptive presidential nominee is feted at a $30,000-a-couple dinner at the home of Dick Cheney, the living thread connecting the past five Republican presidencies.
By hosting a fundraiser for Romney, the former vice president - who in his retirement remains a powerful leader of foreign-policy neoconservatives yet a deeply polarizing figure outside of the Republican base - will make his grandest gesture so far to pass a torch to Romney.
A slate of prominent conservative rainmakers are joining Cheney in hosting the event, including Foster Friess, an investment manager who bankrolled a pro-Rick Santorum super PAC that attacked Romney during the primaries; John R. Miller, a beef company executive; and L.E. Simmons, president of a private-equity firm with large oil investments.
It was unclear how many of Cheney's political allies would appear at Thursday's dinner, but the hosts also include Dick Scarlett, a banker and one of Cheney's closest friends and fishing buddies, and Cheney's eldest daughter, Liz, a former State Department official.
Thursday's dinner at Cheney's home in Wilson, just outside of Jackson Hole, coupled with an earlier reception at the Teton Pines Country Club is expected to raise more than $2 million, according to a top Romney fundraiser.
The evening will put a spotlight on Romney's relationship with the previous Republican administration, which has been complicated and not always comfortable.
Romney advisers characterized his relationship with Cheney as cordial, but no deeper than the one any elder statesman would be expected to have with his party's presidential nominee. They speak infrequently, and advisers said there is little evidence of Cheney's influence, or that of Cheney's close associates, on Romney's policies or politics.
Romney also has a distant relationship with former President George W. Bush. The two speak occasionally on the telephone, but some advisers who bridge the Romney and Bush-Cheney campaigns said Bush is conscious of not wanting to intrude on Romney.
"This does not look to me like Bush-Cheney redux," said former congressman Vin Weber, a veteran of the Bush-Cheney campaigns and a senior policy adviser to Romney.
"At the broader advisory level, everybody who was around Cheney and Bush are around Romney," Weber added. "They want him to win. And it's inevitable that they'd have some influence, because they have the most recent Republican expertise in running the government. But I don't see a lot of overlap there."
Romney's relationship with former President George H.W. Bush, however, is more extensive and personal; he chose to deliver a major speech on Mormonism at Bush's presidential library four years ago and visited Bush this spring in Houston, while Barbara Bush recorded robo-calls for Romney during the primaries.
So far in this campaign, though, Romney has not appeared in public with George W. Bush or Cheney, making Romney's visit to Wyoming noteworthy.
People who know both Romney and Cheney said the two men have contrasting leadership styles. Where Cheney comes off at times as sharp-tongued, Romney often projects a sunny optimism and sometimes seems uncomfortable on the attack. Where Cheney's beliefs and policies are rooted in conservative ideology, Romney's tend to be driven by analytical problem solving.
Yet these people said they see similarities in their world views as well as other mannerisms. Both are hawkish on foreign policy, for instance, voicing unrepentant support for U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and beefing up the military.
"They both very much believe in a strong defense and exerting American power where need be," said Tom Sansonetti, a close friend of Cheney's who served in the Bush administration and is now a Romney donor.
"The way that 1/8Romney 3/8 has addressed some of the international issues that have occurred, such as Libya, his attitude and response towards Iran and their attempt to attain nuclear weapons, his approach to Syria - if it were Candidate Cheney instead of Candidate Romney, I think they would have the same view on those matters," Sansonetti added.
One former Bush administration official who has worked closely with both Cheney and Romney said they were "very different."
"They're both very probing personalities in the context of policy discussions. They don't let up. They really drill down. They're both very smart and curious intellectually," said the official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the two men.
"They're different in that Cheney really keeps his cards close to his chest, even in policy meetings, whereas Romney is not as focused on keeping you guessing," the official added. "Romney has a style of more free-wheeling, open discussion. He isn't worried about asking dumb questions."
Many Cheney allies who shaped policy in the Bush years - including Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, John C. Yoo and David Addington - have no roles in the Romney campaign. Nor do many senior foreign policy figures from that period, such as Condoleezza Rice, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Robert Gates and Stephen Hadley - although Hadley endorsed Romney in April and Rice spoke at Romney's donor retreat last month.
"Romney's his own man and brings his own approach," said Charlie Black, an adviser to Romney.
Still, many political operatives or lower-ranking policy officials from the Bush administration are deeply enmeshed in the Romney campaign, including senior adviser Ed Gillespie, foreign-policy adviser Dan Senor, economic-policy advisers Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw and strategists Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer. And several senior Romney staffers are veterans of Bush's Republican National Committee, including campaign manager Matt Rhoades.
Asked to assess their relationship, Tom C. Korologos, an ambassador to Belgium in the Bush administration, echoed the thoughts of several other Republicans who know both Cheney and Romney.
"I'm not sure they have any relationship except that they are of the same party," Korologos said. "I never see any signs of Cheney people around the Romney campaign."