Romney Leads Republican Rivals in Fundraising

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who polls show is the leading contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, enjoys a substantial fundraising advantage over his rivals.

Romney’s campaign said yesterday that he raised $15 million to $20 million through June 30. Even on the low end, that amount is three times as much as other Republican candidates said they have collected.

An average of opinion polls by the Real Clear Politics website gave Romney 24 percent, almost double the figure for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was in second place. Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, hasn’t said whether she will run in 2012.

“Obviously, Romney has leveraged his standing in the polls to raise early money in the race,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a professor at Boston University’s College of Communication. “The downside is it is a long way to January 2012, and holding a lead is even more difficult than securing it.”

The Iowa caucuses, the opening contest in the nomination process, are scheduled for Feb. 6.

Three of the other Republican White House contenders each reported raising more than $4 million for their campaigns.

U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas reported on his website that he had taken in more than $4.5 million; Tim Pawlenty’s spokesman, Alex Conant, said the former Minnesota governor raised around $4.2 million; and the campaign of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said it collected $4.1 million.

Self-Funding

Huntsman’s campaign said its figure included money from the candidate. The campaign declined to disclose the amount, while saying it was less than half of the total. Huntsman served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama until he quit that post earlier this year.

Other candidates didn’t provide donation totals after the second-quarter fundraising period ended June 30, including Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Bachmann, who officially announced her candidacy on June 27, had $2.9 million in her congressional campaign account as of March 31, all of which could be used for a presidential run.

Gingrich lost his two top fundraising aides on June 21 amid reports that the campaign was in debt. More a dozen campaign staff members resigned earlier last month.

Detailed disclosures are due to the Federal Election Commission by July 15.

‘Default Candidate’

“With such a weak set of candidates, Romney has become the default candidate for Republicans,” said David Primo, a political science professor at the University of Rochester in New York. “This explains his lead in the polls and in fundraising.”

Romney raised $60 million in an unsuccessful bid for the 2008 nomination, and lent his campaign $45 million more. He lost the Republican race to Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had failed in a bid for the nomination in 2000.

“Especially on the Republican side, experience matters -- as does the tradition of the Republicans frequently nominating” previous runners-up, Berkovitz said.

Obama’s campaign declined to release fundraising figures for his re-election bid. His campaign announced through Twitter that it had received money from almost 500,000 donors through June 30. The campaign reported 258,000 donors at this time four years ago, when then-Senator Hillary Clinton of New York was viewed as the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race. Clinton now serves as Obama’s secretary of state.

Around 3 million donors contributed to Obama’s 2008 presidential run, according to his campaign.

Wall Street Support

The president has been actively raising money since declaring his intention to seek a second term in early April. He has reached out to Wall Street, which he criticized earlier in his term as he successfully pushed for legislation enacted last year regulating the financial industry. The measure, known as Dodd-Frank, is named for its chief sponsors, then-Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, both Democrats.

At Federal Hall in New York City last September, Obama declared, “We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses.”

Obama held a $35,800-per-ticket fundraiser with Wall Street bankers earlier this month at Daniel, a restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Obama’s campaign manager, former White House aide Jim Messina, has been reaching out to financial service industry executives.

‘Troubled Relationship’

Messina’s efforts are “a reflection of the troubled relationship that Wall Street has had with the White House, but I think the White House has made significant steps to address that,” said former Democratic National Committee finance director Jay Dunn.

Republicans see an opening to woo Wall Street donors, said party fundraiser Frank Donatelli, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan. “There are a lot of financial services people who feel they’re being scapegoated for everything that’s wrong with the economy,” he said.

Romney held a New York fundraiser last month targeted at the financial industry.

“There is broad recognition on Wall Street that Dodd- Frank, in many respects, overreached after the financial crisis, and the administration clearly aided and abetted such massive regulatory expansion,” said one of the fundraiser’s hosts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary Emil Henry Jr.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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