Fundraising a sign of 2012 candidates' viability
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The financial picture for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination race began coming into clearer focus with Friday's deadline for candidates to report how much cash they have in the bank and how many bills they have to pay.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is known for aggressively fundraising from small donors online, 88,000 of them from whom she collected $4.2 million. She now holds a war chest of $3.6 million. The campaign is now working toward building its base of larger donors who can write checks up to $2,500.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he raised $4.5 million so far, with about $160,000 coming in before the current April-through-June period. He has about $1.4 million available for his primary contest and $600,000 more available if he captures the nomination.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost re-election in 2006, reported taking in $582,000, with less than $250,000 banked.
He spent heavily on fundraising assistance, including $71,900 to several different consultants. Among them were his finance director and a firm that specializes in Internet fundraising.
The federal election reports should offer an early glimpse into each candidate's viability. While money doesn't directly translate into votes, it does pay for crucial television ads, polling to measure whether a message is working and staff to run the mechanics of a national election.
The numbers are one of the first previews of the campaigns' strength as they look to take on President Barack Obama's well-funded re-election bid. On Wednesday, Obama's team announced it had raised $86 million during the second quarter of the year for his campaign and the Democratic Party.
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, already had announced he raised more than $18 million in the past three months and his campaign has $12.6 million in the bank for the primary.
Georgia businessman Herman Cain has said he raised almost $2.5 million in the first weeks of his White House bid, but some of that came out of his own pocket. His report due Friday would detail how much the talk show host invested in his effort.
One eagerly awaited report was coming from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign fundraising team resigned as part of a larger staff exodus. He relied on large donors to fund a network of nonprofits, for-profit companies and think tanks that lent him a public platform since leaving Congress in 1999.
When Gingrich's inner circle resigned over disagreements with the candidate, the then-hobbling campaign carried more than $1 million in red ink.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a tea party favorite, was expected to report a strong fundraising quarter.
For Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, another tea party favorite who raised $13.5 million for her own campaign in the 2010 election, the numbers would preview her fundraising potential on a national scale.
Aides said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has collected $4.1 million, but as much as half of that could be money he's put into the campaign himself.
Huntsman declared himself a candidate in June, but did not file his paperwork with the FEC until July. That means the first disclosures from the Huntsman camp will be on Oct. 15, when the July-through-September report is due.
On the race sidelines, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said her political action committee reported raising about $1.7 million during the first six months of the year and spending almost asmuch, about $1.6 million. The 2008 vice presidential pick has flirted with a White House run and has said she plans to make a decision later this summer.
Should she run, Palin could not simply shift SarahPAC's $1.4 million in the bank into a presidential race. ---
Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Brett Neely in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)