The former Massachusetts governor and private equity manager has amassed far more money than his competitors and has a deep-pocketed super PAC spending unlimited funds on his behalf. Aides and fundraisers say he will have plenty of money remaining to dominate the contest going forward.
But unexpected surges by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in the early GOP nominating matchups forced Romney to deplete much, if not all, of the money he had on hand at the end of December, increasing the pressure on his campaign to raise millions more as he attempts to secure the Republican nomination.
The money chase illustrates the extent to which Romney has been hobbled by a drawn-out and negative primary contest. His polling numbers among independents have fallen, prompting him to spend resources he would have preferred to use against President Obama in a general election.
In his native state of Michigan, which earlier was considered a virtual lock for Romney, the campaign bought $1.2 million worth of airtime this week to fend off Santorum, who is matching or leading Romney in polling ahead of the Feb. 28 primary there, according to a Republican media buyer. Restore Our Future, the main pro-Romney super PAC, has bought an additional $700,000 worth of ads in the state and is almost certain to spend even more over the next two weeks.
To help pay for the onslaught, Romney has been hopscotching the country holding fundraisers, including a telethon-style gathering at a Manhattan law firm Wednesday in which top bundlers hit the phones to raise money. Romney has also held fundraisers over the past week in Arizona, California and Washington, where he brought in about $1.5 million from a “policy roundtable” with industry lobbyists, corporate executives and other business leaders.
Romney aides and supporters acknowledge the need to raise more money for primaries in Michigan and Arizona, as well as 10 pivotal contests March 6, known as “Super Tuesday.” But supporters say that Romney’s cash flow is fine and that he is locking up more donations from Republicans who had been sitting out the primary race until now.
“We have always said that we’re built for the long haul,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “Gov. Romney will win the nomination because we have the resources, the organization and, most importantly, the message that resonates with voters across the country.”
Romney can dip into a personal fortune estimated at up to $250 million, if necessary, and his supporters note that none of his opponents has the resources of his campaign. Santorum, for example, is spending just $42,000 on ads in Michigan this week.
“Every time there’s a new shiny object out there that’s seen as a potential threat to Mitt, the fundraising picks up,” said David Beightol, a Romney fundraiser and lobbyist at Dutko Grayling in Washington. “The event we did last week was one of our best ever. The energy level, the number of people — everything is going very well.”