Presidential election: Mitt Romney top GOP fundraiser, but behind 2007 pace

Mitt Romney took in more campaign funds than any other Republican during the second quarter of 2011, but not as much as he raised during the same period in the presidential election four years ago.

Jim Cole/AP
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who leads fundraising efforts toward the 2012 presidential election, works the crowd at a Fourth of July parade in Amherst, N.H.

So far, Mitt Romney is the champion Republican fundraiser of the 2012 presidential cycle. On Wednesday, he reported raising $18.25 million in the second quarter of 2011 – all of it for the primaries – with $12.6 million in cash on hand. That’s far more than any other GOP candidate in the field raised, of the numbers released to date.

“Voters are responding to Mitt Romney’s message that President Obama’s policies have failed and that we need new leadership in Washington,” Romney finance chair Spencer Zwick said in a statement. “Our fundraising for the second quarter represents the strong support Mitt Romney has across the country.”

Indeed, Romney’s second-quarter take solidifies his position as the early frontrunner for the GOP nomination. But he failed to match his second quarter fundraising total from his last presidential run in 2007, when he brought in $23.5 million. That figure included $2.5 million of personal funds. This time, he has yet to self-fund. So the real apples-to apples comparison is $18.25 million versus $21 million.

Why the decline? The down economy is certainly a factor, political analysts say. But there’s also still a sense that the field is unsettled. Texas Gov. Rick Perry still might jump in. And with so many other competitors, donors could be hanging back to see who develops momentum heading into early caucuses and primaries.

“There’s money on the sidelines,” says Ford O’Connell, chairman of the conservative Civic Forum PAC. “It’ s not necessarily for Governor Perry as much as it is for backing a winner who can go all the way.”

Mr. O’Connell also points out that an independent “Super PAC,” Restore Our Future, founded by former Romney political aides, raised $12 million in the first six months of 2011. The group, whose goal is to help Romney win the presidency, can raise unlimited donations from corporations, unions, and individuals, but must report those donors to the Federal Election Commission.

Romney is also garnering attention for holding a $2,500-per-person fundraiser in London on Wednesday. American citizens and green-card holders are also eligible to donate.

Some presidential candidates have yet to put out their second quarter 2011 fundraising numbers, including: former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and President Obama. Congresswoman Bachmann has been a stellar fundraiser in the House, but she was a presidential candidate for less than three weeks of the quarter. Mr. Obama’s campaign predicts a second-quarter total of $60 million, to be shared with the Democratic National Committee. The reporting deadline for second quarter fundraising is July 15.

Here are the totals reported by other candidates:

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas: $4.5 million. Second only to Romney, Congressman Paul’s take reflects the depth of passion among his supporters.

Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota: $4.2 million. That figure is not outstanding for a candidate who started early and is thought to have top-tier potential, but it’s enough to keep going, analysts say.

Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah: $4.1 million. That total includes personal money he loaned the campaign. He joined the race only on June 21.

Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza: $2.5 million, including some “modest seed money” of his own, his campaign reports.

Newt Gingrich, former House speaker: $2 million. But he has only $225,000 in the bank, and debt of about $1 million, according to news reports.

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