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The slowness of the 2012 fundraising race (and what it means)

at 06:11 AM ET, 09/29/2011

Friday marks the end of the third fundraising quarter of the year and, almost to a candidate, the men and women running for the Republican presidential nomination are downplaying expectations.


(The 2012 Republican field is lagging behind the fundraising pace set by their counterparts in the 2008 contest. )
Lowering the bar to declare victory in fundraising is, of course, de rigeur — French! — in politics. But the amounts being floated out suggest that this group of candidates will be well behind where their counterparts — on both the Republican and Democratic side — were at this time in 2007.

And that reality could mean even more questions about the relative strength of the GOP field — and provide more fodder for those people holding out hope that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reconsiders his past refusals to run.

Each of the presidential campaigns is somewhat circumspect about where they will end up when all the checks are counted Friday at midnight.

Advisers to Texas Gov. Rick Perry have said publicly that he is likely to reach $10 million raised for the period between July 1 and Sept. 30 but told The Fix on Wednesday night that because he got a somewhat late start, it would be the fourth quarter of 2011 where he would really shine.

“While our competitors have had in some cases years to build their teams, we have had weeks,” said Dave Carney, Perry’s chief political strategist. Carney added that Perry hoped to show a “decent” number.

(Perry’s fundraising has undoubtedly been affected, and not in a good way, by his underwhelming debate performances, which have all come in the final weeks of the reporting period.)

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who led the field with $18 million raised in the second quarter, has already made clear he won’t match that total in this three-month period.

“We are going to raise considerably less than what we did in our first reporting period, but we will still meet our finance goals for this quarter,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. She added that the Romney campaign expects Perry to lead the way in the third quarter cash chase. Ah, spin.

The second tier of candidates are (slightly) more forthcoming with their expected fundraising totals. Texas Rep. Ron Paul will raise approximately $5 million, according to campaign manager Jesse Benton. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is expected to clock in well below $10 million raised for his entire campaign. (He collected $4.1 million before the June 30 filing deadline.)

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, for one, isn’t talking; her spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, said that the campaign won’t release their fundraising totals until they are due at the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 15.

A look across that spectrum suggests that, even if some of the candidates are low-balling us (and they are), they still won’t meet the mark set by their predecessors.

Romney collected $18.4 million in the third quarter of 2007, although that included $8.5 million of his own money. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani brought in $11.7 million. Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose entire campaign had collapsed during the quarter, raised $5.7 million, which seems likely to be as much, if not more, than anyone other that Perry and Romney will bring in this time around.

And, remember that the 2008 presidential race started far earlier than the 2012 contest, meaning that Romney, Giuliani and McCain were in the third quarter of active fundraising, not their second (like Romney this year) or first (like Perry). Generally, fundraising is easier at the beginning, when you have the so-called low-hanging fruit.

(Comparing the 2012 GOP candidates to the 2008 Democratic candidates is even more eye-popping. In the third quarter of 2007, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton raised $28 million, while then Sen. Barack Obama brought in $21 million.)

To be fair to the Republican field, even Obama, the best political fundraiser in history, appears to be struggling somewhat on the cash front.

After bringing in $85 million — $43 million for his re-election committe, $39 million for the Democratic National Committee — in the second quarter of 2011, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina has been telling donors that the president is likely to be closer to the $55 million range in the third quarter.

The reasons given for Obama’s dropoff are a) a series of canceled fundraisers as the president engaged daily in the talks to raise the debt ceiling, and b) the typical slowdown that occurs over the summer as people go on vacation and generally pay less attention to politics.

Expect the Republican candidates to surely cite the traditional summer slowdown if and when questions are raised about their relatively sluggish pace. And, the struggling economy will almost certainly be cited as a reason too. (‘People are less willing to write checks when times are tough,’ etc.)

But the political reality is that the rise of Christie buzz, when coupled with steady-but-not-spectacular fundraising of the candidates in the field, is sure to feed into the already extant storyline that Republicans — activists, donors and the like — just aren’t thrilled with their choices.

Individual mandate and the Supreme Court: The Justice Department on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion of Obama’s health care bill.

The move all but assures that the issue will be decided by the court at the height of the 2012 campaign, which will make it even more of a political hot potato than it already is.

Of course, if the individual mandate is thrown out, it will be a major setback for the Obama Administration and, agruably, the president’s campaign, given the legislation has been his signature accomplishment during his first term.

As for the GOP, it’s not as clear that there’s a big political price to be paid for coming up on the short end, besides perhaps lots of wasted effort and a moral defeat.

Fixbits:

The Des Moines Register has details of Newt Gingrich’s new Contract with America.

New Mexico’s congressional redistricting goes to the courts.

Democrats don’t like the proposed map in Utah.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) endorses Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) over Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) in their matchup.

Romney says a Christie campaign would be “fun.”

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio forms a PAC.

Political director Bill Miller leaves the Chamber of Commerce.

In its final ad in West Virginia’s special election for governor, the Republican Governors Association ties acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) to President Obama.

Tea party groups are ready to attack Perry on another illegal immigration front: Texas’s sanctuary cities.

A GOP third-party group is spending two-thirds of a million dollars on a very uphill Kentucky governor’s race.

Herman “Herb” Cain says he couldn’t support Perry for president.

Alabama, which has the toughest immigration law in the country, sees that law upheld.

Must-reads:

Gingrich to release new ‘Contract With America’” — Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post

IRS asked to investigate politically active groups” — Kim Geiger, Los Angeles Times

Why the GOP should embrace Mitt Romney” — David Frum, The Week

House is having polite year, insult-wise, according to a new report” — David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

Presidential contenders boosted by super PACs” — Beth Fouhy, AP

Mitt Romney, never Republicans’ dream date, hopes to be the one they marry” — Philip Rucker, Washington Post

Christie, Clinton and the Calendar” — Nate Silver, New York Times

 
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