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Mitt Romney’s millions (and why they could matter)

at 06:30 AM ET, 03/01/2012

If you know anything about Mitt Romney by now, it’s that he is rich. Very rich. Like, stinking rich.

Through a series of campaign gaffes — the $10,000 bet, friends with NASCAR owners, “couple of Cadillacs”, the debate over releasing his tax returns etc. — Romney has made abundantly clear that he is both very affluent and very awkward talking about his wealth.


Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks with the media after visiting the Brewery Bar IV on June 20, 2011 in Aurora, Colorado. Romney met with a group of small business owners at the Colorado bar on a campaign stop before attending an evening fundraiser. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
And yet, Romney hasn’t donated a dime of personal money to his 2012 campaign to date. That dearth of donations stands in stark contrast to the approach that Romney took in his 2008 race when, by the time he left the contest, he had dropped $44.6 million of his money on the nomination fight. (Romney gave the campaign $18 million in the final three months of 2007 alone!)

Now would seem to be a good time to dive into his personal funds, with the Post’s Philip Rucker and Dan Eggen reporting that Romney’s team spent down its funds beating back Santorum in Michigan.

“This slog they’re in is costing them tons of money,”a Romney bundler told the Post. “They’ve got a fundraising challenge in the sense that they have to keep raising money to keep up with the spending. They’re not in the hole or anything, but it’s a struggle.”

While confirming that Romney has not yet cut himself a check in this race, spokeswoman Andrea Saul offered no comment about whether the candidate is planning to spend some of his own money in the near future. Romney too has been reticent to talk about the possibility; “That’s counsel I’m going to keep with Ann and myself, and that’s all,” Romney said way back in May 2011. “So I can’t give you any more update than that. We’re just going to keep that to our own counsel.” (The door is open!)

It’s not an insignificant question as the nomination fight goes national with 10 states set to vote next Tuesday. With so many states — including big and expensive ones like Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee — on the ballot on March 6, money will matter more than it has to date. The retail phase of the campaign is effectively over, and the media (read: TV ads) phase of the campaign has begun.

With or without a cash infusion from his personal checkbook, Romney is likely to remain the dominant fundraiser in the race. Between his own campaign and Restore Our Future, a super PAC staffed by former Romney advisers, the former Massachusetts governor is slated to spend $3 million on television ads this week and next in Ohio alone. At the end of January, Romney reported raising more than $63 million in the race to date with $7.7 million left to spend.

But there is no such thing as too much money to spend in politics. And, while money isn’t determinative, you’d much rather be on the side with more money in a campaign than the side with less. A personal donation by Romney in the millions of dollars could take a two- or three-to-one spending advantage over former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and turn it into a five- or six-to-one spending edge. And that could matter.

Of course, there’s an obvious downside for Romney if he does decide to dip into his personal fortune. He’s already suffering under the perception among some voters that he is an out-of-touch rich guy who understands nothing about the struggles of the average person. Dumping several million dollars of your own money into a presidential primary race would hand Santorum a baton by which he could beat the populist drum against Romney.

The question Romney and his team have to answer: Is the risk worth the reward?

Santorum raised $9 million in February: Speaking of fundraising — it looks like Santorum is catching up to Romney in the race for cash.

The AP reported the former Pennsylvania senator’s campaign raised $9 million in February — a faster pace than anybody has sustained at any point in the GOP presidential race to this point.

If Santorum can keep it up, he should have the money to compete for the long haul, though Romney and his super PAC will still be spending more, barring a real big change.

Romney clarifies himself on Blunt Amendment: For about an hour or two on Wednesday afternoon, it appeared as though Romney had said he opposes the Blunt Amendment, which would exempt religiously affiliated employers from providing their employees with contraception.

But Romney quickly clarified itself and said he back the Blunt bill.

“I didn’t understand his question; of course I support the Blunt amendment,” Romney said on the Howie Carr Show. “I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception, so I was simply — misunderstood the question, and of course I support the Blunt Amendment.”

Romney’s team was also quick to send around a clarification. But that didn’t stop Democrats and Santorum’s campaign from accusing Romney of a flip-flop.

“We all know Romney’s liberal record on this, so when he’s asked a question about a bill that would protect our religious freedom — and Romney’s gut reaction is to say he’d oppose it — we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised,” Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Greg Sargent has a good review of whether Romney’s denial is plausible and what bill he might have been thinking of when he said he opposed it.

Fixbits:

Romney tries to show his heart.

Even if Santorum doesn’t win another state, at least he’s solved his Google problem.

Obama, who has come under criticism by Republicans for apologizing for U.S service-members burning the Koran, says his apology “calmed things down.”

A new Middle Tennessee State University poll shows Santorum up big in the Tennessee primary on Tuesday.

A second poll shows Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) growing a significant lead — 10 points — on Elizabeth Warren (D).

Must-reads:

Claire McCaskill’s Mountain: A Tough Climb to Victory” — Stuart Rothenberg, Roll Call

Ohio Offer Chance for a Santorum Rebound” — Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times

Despite Mitt wins, both sides keep eying Jeb” — Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Politico

 
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