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Can Romney's Money Stop Santorum's Momentum? The Ticker

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Ticker: Mitt Romney is outspending Rick Santorum
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By Francis Wilkinson

Will Mitt Romney run out of money? That's the question posed by Zeke Miller at Buzzfeed. The short answer is easy: No.

Romney's candidacy is powered by big checks: In 2011, 82 percent of his donations were for $1,000 or more. In addition, Restore Our Future, the super-PAC supporting the Romney campaign, has raised more than $30 million in very big checks. At some point, Romney's campaign will hit a wall with donors willing and able to give the regulated maximum -- $2,500 for the Republican primary. Their number is finite.

But it's hard to believe that the Romney super-PAC will hit a similar wall with contributors willing and able to give six- and seven-figure donations. As the graphic at the bottom of the Bloomberg Elections homepage shows, Restore Our Future had more than $23 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, and the Romney campaign had another $20 million. Rick Santorum and his super-PAC had less than $400,000 combined.

Yet Santorum is leading the polls in Michigan, which votes Feb. 28, and his fundraising has picked up since he swept three primaries this month.  The Santorum campaign's new ad, featuring a thuggish Romney look-alike spraying mud indiscriminately, is the sort of generic response a candidate runs when he lacks the funds for a proper rebuttal. But the super-PAC supporting Santorum just reserved time for $700,000 worth of television, enough for a substantial statewide buy.

Money isn't everything in politics, as Texas Governor Rick Perry and his wealthy backers learned last year. But it's still one of the most important things, which is why campaigns spend so much time and energy collecting it. Romney's money advantage in this campaign has been vast. If he still loses to Santorum in Michigan, where Romney's father was governor, it could be a dramatic turn in the campaign. Romney is bleeding support from independents. Meantime, party regulars have begun pondering the fate of down-ballot Republicans nationwide should their presidential nominee prove sub-par.

On Super Tuesday, March 6, 10 states will hold primaries. Santorum  lacks the money to compete effectively in all of them, and he seems unlikely ever to win over the Republican donor base. But if Romney can't shake Santorum by March 7, the bottom could fall out of the race. Republicans are not eager for chaos at the convention. But will they keep investing in a frontrunner who -- despite massive advantages -- seems unable to stay in front?

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

For more quick commentary from Bloomberg View, go to the Ticker.

 

 

 

 

-0- Feb/16/2012 19:58 GMT

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