Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty’s campaign said he raised $4.2 million in the recent quarter. Texas Rep. Ron Paul raised more than $4.5 million. Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, raised $4.1 million with “less than half” coming from his personal funds, an official with his campaign said.
The slow start was largely attributed to the tough economic environment, but the figures will inevitably be used as a measure of each candidate’s strength.
Pawlenty’s total, in particular, calls into question how well he can position himself as the alternative to Romney, especially with a fellow Minnesotan and blockbuster fundraiser, Rep. Michele Bachmann, surging in the polls.
“Fundraising numbers are important because they help generate buzz and excitement,” said GOP consultant Todd Harris, “and because in politics, money begets more money.”
President Obama’s campaign was tight-lipped about his totals, but officials touted their success in convincing close to 500,000 people to donate.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign has offered no indication of his fundraising over the three-month quarter or in the three weeks since his top advisers quit en masse. A Gingrich spokesman, R.C. Hammond, this week characterized the campaign’s fundraising as “a challenge.” Asked Friday for an estimate of how much Gingrich had raised, Hammond wrote in an e-mail: “ABSOLUTELY NOT.”
A spokeswoman for Bachmann would not provide an estimate of what she had raised since filing to run on June 13. Bachmann has demonstrated that she can raise millions from small donors online for her congressional races and had more than $2 million left from her last campaign, which is available for the presidential race.
Romney supporters raised approximately $10 million through an independent group that supports his candidacy but is not burdened by the $2,500 individual cap on donations to the official campaigns, according to a source familiar with the fundraising. Officials with the group declined to comment.
The campaigns are not required to disclose the full picture of their financial health for another two weeks. So far, none of the campaigns has released figures for how much it has spent or its cash in the bank.
“There are countless campaigns who shattered fundraising expectations only to spend the money as fast as they raised it,” said Harris, who is unaffiliated in the presidential race. “What’s the difference between a campaign that raises $20 million and a campaign that raises $4 million? It’s a lot if the $20 million campaign keeps their burn rate low.”
Rudy Giuliani and John McCain both faced that problem in 2008, when McCain went into debt and was all but written off before his surge to victory in the New Hampshire primary. With that lesson, this season’s Republican candidates have been slower to ramp up their spending, especially given a new nominating schedule with later dates for the first contests.
“We’re running a leaner campaign than last time,” Romney said to reporters in Concord, N.H., this week. “We’re going to make sure we have a burn rate that’s consistent with being able to go throughout the primary process and hopefully securing the nomination.”
Obama campaign officials say their goal is to raise a combined $60 million in contributions to the campaign and the Democratic National Committee. That figure will likely top all of the Republican candidates combined, but it’s not a fair comparison — donors are allowed to give up to $30,800 to the DNC. Several Obama fundraisers have required a minimum donation of $35,800, and of that, $5,000 would go to Obama’s personal campaign fund.
While they are courting large donors, campaign officials also are hoping to illustrate that Obama has the same kind of broad appeal he did in 2008, when a record four million people donated to his campaign.
“A lot of folks will be interpreting our numbers as a measure of this campaign’s support. They’re not wrong, but they are wrong about why,” Obama wrote in an e-mail to supporters earlier this week. “We measure our success not in dollars but in people — in the number of everyday Americans who’ve chosen to give whatever they can afford because they know we’ve got more work to do.”
Staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. contributed to this report.