Today marks the final chance for the men and woman running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 to collect cash before the second fundraising quarter comes to a close at midnight.

The spin wars are already in full effect — with most of the chatter centering on just how much cash former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will bring in.

Romney aides insist he will raise something short of $20 million, while his rivals argue that floating such a total is an attempt by the campaign to lower expectations. (Romney did raise more than $10 million in a single day last month.)

Regardless of Romney’s final total, it’s clear from conversations with Republican operatives closely monitoring the race that fundraising has been difficult, and that the candidates’ totals will come nowhere near what the top GOP candidates brought in over a similar period in 2007.

Although some GOP fundraisers and operatives blame the economy for the shortfall, others contend that the lack of a daunting Republican candidate and the fluidity in the Republican race has left donors skittish.

In the first fundraising quarter of 2007 — the last presidential race started earlier four years ago, so almost all of the major candidates were in and raising cash in the first three months of the year — Romney led the way with $23.4 million raised, a total that included $2.35 million of his own money.

While Romney’s total was eye-popping, it was far from the only big number put up by Republican candidates. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani brought in $16.6 million, while Arizona Sen. John McCain collected $13.1 million.

Combined, the three men raked in nearly $53 million in their first quarter of active fundraising.

While there is an active debate about how much Romney will actually have raised when numbers start trickling in, which is likely to happen Friday, there is almost no one within the party who thinks the top three cash-collecters in this race will come anywhere close to equaling that 2007 total.

And, it’s possible that the top three candidates combined won’t even equal the $36 million that then-Texas governor George W. Bush raised in his first quarter of active fundraising in 1999. (And Bush did that with $1,000 contribution limits; the individual limits are now $2,500.)

What gives?

Republican strategists and fundraisers put much of the blame for the sluggish fundraising pace on the continued struggles of the economy.

“It’s the slow economy,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a Georgia-based Romney fundraiser. “I saw it in the 2010 midterms. It’s much more difficult to raise money today then 2007.”

Added Brian Jones, a Republican consultant with the Black Rock Group: “A political donation is an investment you may never see a return on, and people are more reluctant to make that bet than they were four years ago.”

Not everyone agrees.

“The argument that, in a $15 trillion economy, there is no money doesn’t make sense,” said GOP consultant Rob Collins.

Dig slightly deeper and Republicans also acknowledge that the economy alone isn’t to blame for the slower-than-expected fundraising totals.

The most commonly cited reasons for the relative GOP money drought is the continued instability of — and unhappiness with — the Republican field.

“I think the weak numbers reflect an attention deficit disorder among GOP donors,” said one senior Republican strategist not aligned with any 2012 candidate. “It’s the video game effect: you’re about to lock on to a target, and suddenly you’re distracted by something new on the screen.”

The past three months have been filled with chaos, as Govs. Mitch Daniels (Ind.) and Haley Barbour (Miss.) as well as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee decided not to run.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to be moving toward the race and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin remains a potential candidate too.

The continued search for a candidate also seems to belie a lingering discontent with the field. Polling bears that out. In a new New York Times/CBS poll, roughly seven in 10 Republicans said they wish they had more choices in the GOP presidential field, and two-thirds said they were not excited about any of the candidates running.

Regardless of the reason, the pace of Republican fundraising may well be the story when all of the second-quarter reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission on July 15 — particularly given that President Obama’s 2012 campaign has set a goal of $60 million raised in the quarter.

Palin struggles in Alaska: We’ve known for a while that Sarah Palin didn’t exactly leave the governorship of Alaska with a whole bunch of goodwill to her name.

But a new poll shows it’s even worse than previously though.

The Hays Research poll shows Obama would beat her in her home state. Obama takes 42 percent in the poll, compared to 36 percent for Palin.

Just 25 percent of voters said they were committed to voting for Palin — a sharp rebuke of the governor, who resigned after two and a half years at the helm. More recently, it was reported that Palin has bought a house in Arizona.

South Carolina GOP faces redistricting troubles: Republican lawmakers in South Carolina are trying to avert a crisis over congressional redistricting.

With the GOP controlling both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, they were expected to get a favorable draw with the state adding a new district.

A House-passed bill had put a new GOP-friendly district in the northeast corner of the state, based in Myrtle Beach. But then a bill passed in the Senate on Wednesday put a more marginal district in the southern part of the state, based in Beaufort County. The latter bill passed when Democrats lured enough of the Senate’s GOP majority to cross over, but GOP leaders worry that the new district the bill creates could go Democratic.

Republicans would be heavily favored to win the northeastern district, with Rep. Jim Clyburn remaining the state’s lone congressional Democrat.

The AP reports the state House and Senate will now negotiate over the two bills, with the goal of reaching a compromise at the end of the month. If they can’t agree, the matter would go before a three-judge panel, which some say could draw a map even friendlier for Democrats.

Meanwhile, there could be good news for the GOP in another state. Oregon is getting close to a map, and Democratic Reps. David Wu and Kurt Schrader could be more vulnerable.


The National Republican Congressional Committee is going up with a new website highlighting its Patriots program. The page will allow people to learn more about the vulnerable incumbents featured in the program and contribute to them.

Huntsman staffs up in South Carolina.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Democratic opponent says he will post a big fundraising number for the second quarter.

Bachmann defends Medicaid payments made to her husband’s business.

Bill Clinton weighs in on the debt, calling it a “cancerous threat” but warning against cuts that are too drastic.

Romney signs “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

Michelle Obama to raise money in Utah.

Tim Pawlenty’s pastor is retiring but will continue to head up the National Association of Evangelicals.

Rhode Island will enact civil unions for same-sex couples.

Stephen Colbert will testify — before the FEC. Remember last time that happened?


Down to the wire, GOP hopefuls collect last-minute bucks” — AP

As a ‘Potential’ Presidential Candidate, Life Is Good” — Beth Reinhard, National Journal

Appeals court upholds health-care law’s individual mandate” — Jerry Markon, Washington Post

Not all public campaign financing will raise Supreme Court ire” — T.W. Farnam, Washington Post