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The campaign contribution scramble: Will Mitt Romney keep GOP lead?

Only a few days are left until third-quarter fundraising reports are due. Mitt Romney led the GOP field last quarter, but Rick Perry, Ron Paul, and others are sprinting hard for campaign contributions.

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Ron Paul, who came in second among GOP candidates after Romney for the second quarter, continues to raise money in day-long bursts called “money bombs.” The libertarian-leaning Texas congressman’s loyal supporters are expected to keep his campaign well-fueled for the duration of the campaign. A Paul campaign official says “ballpark $5 million” for the third quarter.

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For the other candidates, the third-quarter numbers could be make or break in terms of ability to stay in the campaign. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota failed to capitalize on her victory in the Iowa straw poll last month, and is reportedly having fundraising trouble. Her last-place finish in the Florida straw poll last weekend does nothing to boost her chances.

Businessman Herman Cain, on the other hand, posted a stunning victory in the Florida straw poll, and his communications director, Ellen Carmichael, says the campaign continues to raise “several hundred thousand a day” after the Saturday win. Overall, the Cain campaign isn’t putting out a guesstimate for its third-quarter fundraising total.

Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, has won some attention for his combative debate style, but he remains low in the polls and is reportedly struggling in fundraising. The question for him is how long he can stay in the race, even with his small staff and low overhead.

Jon Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, has continued to underwhelm in his debate performances, and his longevity in this campaign also has a big question mark over it. His low polling numbers have also likely hindered fundraising, and it’s anybody’s guess how much he’ll report for the third quarter.

Another mystery man on funding is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He continues to poll remarkably well, given his minimal campaign. The latest national poll, by CNN/Opinion Research, shows Mr. Gingrich in third place with 10 percent, after Perry (28 percent) and Romney (21 percent). The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows him in sixth place with 7 percent, trailing (in order) Perry, Romney, Congressman Paul, noncandidate former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Mr. Cain.

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