The third quarter fundraising period comes to an end this weekend, and candidates everywhere are scrambling to pad their totals in hopes of demonstrating momentum.

Shortly after the deadline at midnight Saturday, we should begin hearing piecemeal reports of who has raised how much — and indeed, we’re already hearing reports that Mitt Romney raised between $11 and $13 million — with all reports due by Oct. 15.

Most presidential campaigns are fiercely guarding that information, or even pleading ignorance, with time still left on the clock.

So before the numbers start rolling in, we thought we would ask and (attempt to) answer five questions that will come into focus over the next two weeks.

1. How much did Perry raise? This is the biggest of the big. If Romney’s number is indeed between $11 million and $13 million, then Rick Perry’s team has its target. The name of the game is beating Romney, period. Perry’s team has beat back a report that suggested it pulled in $20 million in the opening days of the campaign, noting that much of that was pledges. Perry’s quest has been complicated a bit by early projections — including that he would raise $10 million in the opening weeks of his campaign — and by some recent uneven debate performances. Still, Perry’s team has unofficially said $10 million is the goal, and it would be a shock if it didn’t easily exceed that number. The question is whether it beats Romney. “They’ll probably blow through $10 million; I’d be surprised if they don’t,” said a source with knowledge of Perry’s fundraising.

2. Any surprises? We’ve seen both Rep. Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain show the kind of viability that was previously alien to their campaigns. And with viability generally comes money. Paul’s campaign has already said it raised about $5 million — slightly more than in the second quarter. But can Cain turn his Florida Straw Poll victory and ascent in the polls into some actual money? He really needs to beat the $2.5 million he raised in the second quarter, especially considering his campaign’s high burn rate in the first half of the year. Time is working against Cain, though, as his campaign has really only taken off this week, with just a few days until the line between the second quarter and third quarter.

3. Is Obama still getting small donors?: President Obama will show a smaller number in the third quarter than he did in the second, largely because he spent a lot of time neogtiating the debt ceiling deal. But with increasing signals that his base is leaving him, observers will be looking to his report to see how much small donors are standing with the president. In the second quarter, his donor count was a little inflated by a contest in which people donated $5 to enter a raffle to have dinner with the president. The third quarter should provide a better measure of his pull with ordinary Americans.

4. Is Bachmann even viable? We all know the Minnesota congresswoman has been struggling in the polls, but lots of reports indicate she’s also got a money problem. Despite her reputation as arguably the best fundraiser in the House, Bachmann doesn’t appear to have translated that to the presidential race. And given how her campaign went the whole hog at the Ames Straw Poll, it is likely to show heavy expenses. If she comes in below the $4 million she raised in the second quarter, that’s big problems.

5. Can they press on? Jon Huntsman’s $2 million haul (supplemented by $2 million in self-funding) in the final weeks of the second quarter showed that he could be a fundraising force. But can a guy who can’t get past 1 percent in national polls keeps raising money at anywhere near that clip? We suspect no. And Newt Gingrich was $1 million in debt as of June 30; has he remedied that situation so that he can run a real presidential campaign? (He ain’t talking.) Lack of money is what ends campaigns, and we should know soon just how long candidates like Gingrich, Bachmann and Huntsman can stay in the race.

More hints from Christie?: Did Chris Christie just suggest that his country needs him?

During an appearance with Lousiaiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in Baton Rouge on Thursday, the New Jersey governor suggested the two of them may be called to be something more than governors.

“If it were, you know, up to Bobby and I, we could focus all our time right here in our own states here in Louisiana and New Jersey,” Christie said, according to NBC. “But we can’t do that, because America needs to get better too.”

Meanwhile, the Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that Christie is giving the presidential race “serious” consideration.

It’s more grist for the Christie-for-president rumor mill, but nothing concrete, of course.

Huntsman moves his headquarters to N.H.: Huntsman’s campaign is now REALLY emphasizing New Hampshire.

After failing to get much traction in Florida early in the campaign, the former Utah governor’s team is packing up and moving to the Granite State, which is expected to serve as Huntsman’s first — and perhaps last — testing ground.

Huntsman’s team had been based in Orlando, where his wife is from. And despite the state’s apparent move to become fifth in the process, New Hampshire is of more immediate concern for a candidate who as at about 1 percent in most national polls.


Team Romney sending a message to Chris Christie?

Huntsman and Donald Trump go at it.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu takes the blame for approving the restructuring of Solyndra’s loan..

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has pledged to veto any redistricting plan not drafted by an independent commission.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) is not only threatening to run for Senate or governor; he’s also saying he might run in the state’s new 4th district, rather than his current 2nd district.

A federal judge tells Texas to hold off on implementing its new congressional redistricting plan, which the Justice Department and Democrats are fighting.

Kentucky Attorney General candidate Todd P’Pool (R) is getting big-name help from Mike Huckabee and Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli (R) for his Novemeber reelection race.

Perry will be at the Family Leader forum in Iowa in November.


Complex calendar gives Mitt edge” — Ben Smith and Emily Schultheis, Politico

How Much Do Party Registration Figures Matter?” — Quinn McCord, National Journal

Chris Christie 2012 presidential run: What stands in his way” — Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, Politico

Obama charts a new path to reelection” — Jackie Calmes and Mark Landler, New York Times