Republican presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Tuesday, June 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the number, adding that the governor “begins the third quarter with more available cash-on-hand than the Republicans who won the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary had in July 2007.” Conant offered no specifics about Pawlenty’s cash on hand total. He did note that Pawlenty’s fundraising total did include general election money that he would not be able to spend unless and until he becomes the party’s nominee.

At the end of June 2007, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee had $437,000 in the bank while Arizona Sen. John McCain had $3.2 million on hand as well as $1.8 million in debt. Huckabee won Iowa, McCain New Hampshire. McCain went on to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2008.

Spin aside, the number is somewhat disappointing for Pawlenty who had been hoping to emerge as the clear pick for people not enamored with Romney by posting a strong number in the second fundraising quarter.

A Pawlenty aide said the number was “slightly off” the campaign’s goal of raising $4.5 million for the quarter but added: “There are a lot of people waiting on the field to prove themselves.”

The aide also noted that fundraising dropped off for a week or so following Pawlenty’s roundly-panned debate performance in New Hampshire before picking up considerably over the final week of June.

As it stands, Pawlenty is in a virtual fundraising dead heat with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman who only officially entered the race last week but managed to collect $4.1 million. (Huntsman made a substantial personal donation to reach that total although his campaign said his contribution was less than half of the total funds raised.)

Romney, the race’s frontrunner, is expected to raise in the neighborhood of $20 million though his campaign is not expected to make any formal announcement until after the holiday weekend.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is seen as the momentum candidate in the race, is likely to eclipse both Huntsman and Pawlenty in cash collected over the past three months. Texas Rep. Ron Paul has a largely Internet-based fundraising following that could put him in the top tier of cash collecters as well. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has experienced major structural problems in his campaign and is expected to show considerable debt in his filing.

Reports covering contributions and expenditures from April 1 through June 30 are due at the Federal Election Commission on July 15.

Initial fundraising expectations were high for Pawlenty given his work as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association during the 2010 cycle and extremely active schedule in the early months of the year.

Pawlenty’s weak performance — in which he passed on a chance to attack Romney on health care — at a New Hampshire debate earlier this month stymied the momentum he had heading into the night at a critical moment for fundraising.

Given Pawlenty’s current financial situation, the Ames Straw poll in Iowa in August is now even more critical to his viability in the race. Pawlenty must have a strong showing — first or a close second — to preserve the rational for his candidacy.

Spending whatever it takes — or whatever he has — to do just that is now Pawlenty’s best (and perhaps only) strategy to reclaim his spot as the Romney alternative in the race.

”Gov. Pawlenty’s campaign has never been built on a model where we need to raise the most to win,” communications director Ann Marie Hauser wrote in an email to supporters obtained by the Fix. “We need just enough to compete in Iowa and New Hampshire initially — and this report shows we are well on our way of doing that.”

Of course, Bachmann, who significantly outpolled Pawlenty in a Des Moines Register survey earlier this week and will almost certainly have more money to spend on the straw poll, is a major impediment to the former Minnesota governor’s chances of using Ames as a bounce back.


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