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Mitt Romney remains fundraising king, but look who's hard on his heels

Mitt Romney was both the big fundraiser and the big spender in January, in his quest for GOP's presidential crown. Despite his big war chest, he lags Rick Santorum by 10 points nationally.

By Staff writer / February 21, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to employees at Meridian Bioscience in Cincinnati, Ohio, Monday, Feb. 20.

Gerald Herbert/AP

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Mitt Romney raised more money ($6.5 million) and spent more money ($19 million) in January than any of the other Republican presidential contenders. By the end of the month, he had won two of four contests. Yet three weeks into February – and two weeks after Rick Santorum trounced him in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri – Mr. Romney's campaign appears on the edge of crisis.

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Romney now trails Mr. Santorum among Republican voters nationally by 10 points, 36 percent to 26 percent, according the latest Gallup daily tracking poll, released Tuesday morning. In his native state of Michigan, which holds its primary in a week, Romney trails Santorum by an average of three points in the latest polls.

Romney is leading in Arizona, the other Feb. 28 primary. A win there would ease the blow of a Michigan loss. But if he loses both, watch out. Talk of a brokered or contested convention and the search for a GOP “savior” to get into the race – all still idle chatter – could burst forth into full-blown panic by the Republican establishment.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If anything, the race for cash has shown that money isn’t everything in politics. All a candidate needs is enough – not necessarily the most – to be competitive.

In the January fundraising figures, due Monday night, Romney did come in first, but not by much. Newt Gingrich, who posted a big victory in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21, took in $5.6 million, and Santorum took in $4.5 million. Ron Paul, who commands fierce loyalty among his supporters, also took in $4.5 million.

Almost as important are the fundraising numbers for "super political action committees" – the new outside groups that can raise unlimited donations for ads in support of a campaign. The pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, brought in slightly more than Romney himself, $6.6 million, and spent $14 million. The pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, took in $11 million – mostly from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife – and spent $9.7 million. The pro-Santorum super PAC, the Red White and Blue Fund, took in $2 million and spent $1.5 million.

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