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What Mitt Romney’s money means

at 06:30 AM ET, 07/07/2011

What we know: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney raised $18.25 million over the past three months.

What we don’t: Is that a good or a bad omen for his chances at the 2012 Republican presidential nomination?

That depends on how you choose to measure the money.

By one measure, Romney came up well short of expectations.

In the first quarter of 2007, which is the closest analog to the second quarter of 2011, Romney raised $23.5 million — a total that included $2.5 million from his own personal funds.

Even subtracting his personal donation — Romney didn’t loan his campaign any of his own money in the second quarter of 2011 — he still came up roughly $3 million short of what he collected as a little-known former governor in 2007.

Also, Romney came in well below some of the estimates — $30 million or more — that were flying around in advance of the end of the fundraising quarter. (One Romney fundraiser in Utah floated the idea of a $50 million quarter, according to Politico’s Jonathan Martin.)

To their credit, Romney’s senior aides were up-front about his fundraising for the quarter — they said he would come in between $15 and $20 million — but still struggled beneath the heightened fundraising expectations for the nominal frontrunner in the race.

“I think they learned an organizational lesson here,” said one senior Republican strategist. “Pledges are meaningless, and they need to pick up the collection efforts.”

By another measure, Romney is as strong — if not stronger — shape than he was after the first quarter of 2007.

In that race, Romney held about a $7 million fundraising advantage over the second-place finisher — former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

At the moment, Romney has raised more than four times as much as his nearest competitor. That may change when Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann reports her fundraising — her campaign says the numbers won’t go public until they are due at the Federal Election Commission on July 15.

But even if Bachmann hits $8 million — the most common guesstimate at the moment — Romney will have effectively doubled her and have a $10 million lead heading into the summer.

“I think it is relative,” said Mike Murphy, a Republican media consultant who has worked for Romney in the past but is not affiliated with him this time around. “It’s less than 2008, but the competition he faces is the crowd he has now, not then.”

There are two x-factors in calculating what Romney’s money means going forward in the race.

First, he is the only top-tier candidate to announce how much money he had left to spend at the end of June. Romney’s $12.6 million cash on hand total is impressive — it’s always tough to raise that amount of money and not spend too much doing it — and could actually extend his edge once his rivals have to say what they have left to spend.

“Some of his competitors are looking at weak cash-on-hand positions that threaten to end their campaigns if they don’t change things by mid-August,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member from Mississippi.

Second, Romney remains very wealthy. In the 2008 campaign, he loaned himself $44.5 million. Romney has talked very little about how much (or little) he is willing to put into this race, and he has yet to file his personal financial disclosure forms for the 2012 contest. At that point, we’ll have a rough idea how much cash he has to spend.

Back in 2008, Romney’s personal wealth was estimated at between $190 million and $250 million — a total that didn’t include a blind trust for his children estimated at between $70 and $100 million.

In short: Romney has plenty of money — still — and if he wanted to spend another $44.5 million on the 2012 primary race, he could.

Between now and Sept. 30 will be the true test for Romney. Can he rally the establishment donors still sitting on the sidelines behind his candidacy in the third reporting period? Will he start writing personal checks as the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary approach?

DGA raised $11 million through June: The Democratic Governors Association will announce today that it raised $11 million in the first six months of 2012 and has $8.6 million on hand.

The total raised is more than twice as much as the committee raised during the first six months of the last comparable year — 2007. It is slightly less than the DGA raised in the first half of the last off-year, 2009.

The Republicans Governors Association announced earlier this week that it had raised more than twice that amount — $22.1 million — for the same period and had nearly twice as much cash on hand, with $16.2 million.

Both committees have upped their fundraising significantly in recent years, but the RGA remains a far superior financial machine.

Democrats point out, though, that being outraised two-to-one is actually an improvement for them over last cycle, when the RGA raised $117 million and the DGA pulled in $55 million.

There are 14 governor’s races over the next two years, including four this year.

Romney to speak at CPAC in Florida: The American Conservative Union will announce today that Romney has agreed to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.

The ACU is expanding its brand and holding regional versions of its annual CPAC event, which is a huge gathering of conservatives in Washington.

Romney will be the first candidate the ACU has named as a speaker for the event, known as CPAC FL.

The conference will be held Sept. 23 at the Orange County Convention Center. ACU is expected to announce soon that other presidential candidates will attend as well.

Fixbits:

Mike Huckabee clarifies that, even though his daughter is working for Tim Pawlenty, he remains neutral.

A former Newt Gingrich backer is now urging Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run.

Karl Rove thinks Perry will do it.

Romney goes to London.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) goes up on the radio.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signs a Voter ID bill in blue Rhode Island.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) won’t sign “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) says he’s disappointed that Bachmann hasn’t signed the pledge.

Twentyfour-year-old Republican Ricky Gill reports raising $420,000 for his campaign for the seat currently held by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.).

Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says Romney is a “world-class political contortionist.” And Romney camp responds.

Must-reads:

GOP candidates build foreign policy teams” — Josh Rogin, Washington Post

Michigan Republicans weighing primary options” — Kathy Barks Hoffman, AP

Some campaigns point to donor numbers over dollars” — Dan Eggen, Washington Post

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