Romney Outpaces GOP Pack in Fundraising

By Matthew Mosk and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney provided a jolt to the Republican presidential contest yesterday, reporting a haul of $21 million in the first three months of the year, as Sen. John McCain of Arizona posted a lackluster third-place finish that even his campaign manager called a disappointment.

As campaigns release their first meaningful fundraising figures in what appears certain to become the most expensive presidential campaign in history, McCain's $12.5 million total also put him behind former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who leads the Republican field in public polls and reported taking in $15 million in the first quarter.

Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has set the pace for the field so far, reporting Sunday that she had raised $26 million in combined primary and general election funds and transferred an additional $10 million from her Senate campaign account. Her total was followed by that of former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who raised $14 million. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has so far declined to release figures for his campaign.

The totals of the major contenders easily surpassed the record $8.9 million raised by Al Gore in the first three months of 1999.

Romney has labored in single digits in polling but has been an aggressive fundraiser. He launched his campaign with a "National Call Day" at the convention center in Boston in January, where nearly 400 of his supporters, including Meg Whitman, the chief executive of eBay, and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt called friends to ask them to back Romney. The event raised a whopping $6.5 million in a single day.

But the showing by McCain, who had been ordained the front-runner in the GOP contest from Day One and had worked to win over many of the fundraising Pioneers and Rangers who helped fill President Bush's coffers in 2000 and 2004, was a surprise to both analysts and rival campaigns. Most characterized the numbers as an unexpected sign of distress for a campaign that has been building its machinery for eight years and was one of the first to set up a fundraising committee.

"By any historical measure, $12.5 million is a lot of money," said Alex Vogel, a Republican strategist not affiliated with any candidate. "But McCain was the front-runner for so long, the expectation was he would not come in third."

McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson acknowledged as much yesterday, coupling his release of the dollar figure with the gloomy admission that "we had hoped to do better."

Nelson said the campaign has begun to aggressively revamp its fundraising operations and insisted in an interview that the showing does not reflect a lack of support for the Arizona senator.

"While we wish we would have done better in this quarter, certainly we did well enough to fight an effective campaign, which is what we're going to do," he said.

Nelson added that a new system of accountability, including targets for individual fundraisers, has been established for the members of McCain's finance team. The campaign also announced that its general co-chairman, former Texas congressman Tom Loeffler, recently was put in charge of fundraising and began a review of fundraising operations.

In interviews yesterday, key 2008 fundraisers blamed McCain's lackluster quarter on a host of shortcomings, most notably his difficulty summoning support from traditional Republican donors who were unhappy about his campaign finance reform agenda in the Senate and his earlier clashes with Bush.

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