Romney Leaves A Lot On The Table

According to reports, Mitt Romney will report raising $18.25 million since officially launching his Presidential campaign in early April. This is way ahead of the rest of the field: Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman have each claimed a little over $4 million, while Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich say they're in the $2 to $2.5 million range. Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann have not released figures, to my knowledge; Santorum will be lucky if he's ahead of Cain, while Bachmann might well be north of $5 million despite a late start.

The Romney figure is a disappointment, which his campaign has been signalling for a while. He raised over $20 million in the first quarter of fundraising in 2007 (when he started in January), and that was when he was a relatively unknown long-shot. Now he's the frontrunner, with an enormous small-donor database to go along with the big bankrollers.

The actual dollar total, in terms of his need for funds to spend, is almost irrelevant -- he'll have as much money as he needs, between his own deep pockets and those of a select few friends who can donate unlimited amounts to the "Super PAC" being run by Romney '08 veterans. What's important is the contributors he's leaving on the table, potentially for others to raise from in coming months.

Consider that as of June 30, 2007, the Republican candidates had collectively raised roughly $106 million (not including self-funding and transfers). So far this year, the field has only raised somewhere in the $40 million ballpark, depending on where Bachmann comes in.

The vast bulk of that early '07 $106m was reaped by Romney ($35m), Rudy Giuliani ($33m), and John McCain ($25m) -- mostly in $1000-plus checks from bankers, businessmen, lawyers, and other well-to-do Republican types. Those are the folks one would think most likely to be backing the Mittster this year -- so the real question is, why has he only snagged $18m of that $93m so far?

It's a lotta cash left on the table. To be fair, a decent chunk of it may be folks who won't give to GOP candidates this cycle, because they and their firms don't want to seem adversarial toward the incumbent President. And perhaps some of it is off the table due to the recession's hit on some of those well-to-do wallets.

But my sense from folks is that a pretty large amount of it is just waiting on the sidelines. Some is waiting to see if Rick Perry or someone else gets in. Some is waiting to see whether any of those already in -- Pawlenty in particular -- really has a chance.

I also have been told that Huntsman's entry has effectively frozen a lot of the Mormon money, which made up a large share of Romney's early '07 take. Rather than choose between the two (and infuriating the other), many Mormon businessmen are keeping their checkbooks closed for the primary battle -- or so the grapevine has it; we'll know more when the actual Q2 reports are filed.

In any event, the bottom line for me is that Romney's fundraising to date suggests that the opportunity still exists for one or more other establishment-acceptable candidates to raise plenty of money -- and that's not even counting the potentially sizable sums from smaller-donor grassroots conservatives who, clearly, Romney has not won over yet.

Of course, at some point, presumably, all that money could flood to Romney if it really looks like he's the inevitable nominee. (Or if it looks like the party needs to rally behind him to stop a fringe candidate from heading the national ticket.) But as of June 30, it sure looks like there's plenty of time and money remaining.

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