Mitt Romney makes a fundraising splash. How much does that matter?
Mitt Romney lays down the gauntlet to Republican contenders with a one-day fundraising haul of more than $10 million. His rivals probably won't be able to keep pace, but they may not have to.
Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus/Reuters
The gauntlet is down. Mitt Romney raised $10.25 million in one day Monday, as nearly 800 people gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center to make fundraising calls for the former Massachusetts governor.
It was an impressive haul by any measure, including a similar â€ścall dayâ€ť he held four years ago for his last presidential campaign that brought in about $4 million less.
Can any of the other contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination even come close? And do they have to?
The answers are â€śprobably notâ€ť and â€śno.â€ť Each candidate faces his or her own benchmark of fundraising success when the bell rings on June 30 and candidates report their second quarter 2012 numbers to the Federal Election Commission. (The results will be made public some time in July, but expect the big fundraisers to trumpet their success in press releases.)
Mr. Romney is known for his fundraising prowess, and so he had to score big on Monday or appear inferior to the Romney of 2008, who failed to win the nomination.
What really matters, though, is not coming in first money-wise, but in having enough to spend to get your message out. â€śThat can be a lot less than the other candidates if youâ€™ve got a message thatâ€™s selling,â€ť says Mr. Sabato.
The likely candidate whoâ€™s really under the gun is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He could find it tough to raise $10 million in all of the second quarter, in part because he is not nearly as well-known as Romney and is still polling in the low single digits.
Mr. Pawlenty is widely seen as having top-tier potential, and is lining up a good stable of wealthy fund-raisers to â€śbundleâ€ť donations for him â€“ including some people who backed Romney in 2008 and before that, former President George W. Bush. But he could find himself caught in a vicious cycle: people reluctant to donate to his campaign because he hasnâ€™t caught on yet, but without money, it will be hard for him to catch on.
â€śHis fundraising as governor was adequate but not spectacular,â€ť says Steven Schier, political science chair at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Now â€śheâ€™s facing the fundraising challenge of his life.â€ť
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich faces a different blend of challenges. Heâ€™s already widely known, but has high negatives. And just days into his campaign, he has already perhaps fatally damaged his candidacy. On â€śMeet the Pressâ€ť on Sunday, he unexpectedly and harshly criticized the budget plan put forth by House Budget chair Paul Ryan, one of the partyâ€™s leading young lights â€“ then had to walk the comments back.
The whole episode revived questions about Mr. Gingrichâ€™s message discipline. So it may not matter that he has a record as a formidable fundraiser, pre-presidential campaign. A recent Wall Street Journal article on â€śNewt Inc.â€ť reported that his network of organizations raised $32 million between 2009 and 2010, more than all his potential 2012 rivals combined. But that all may now be moot.
Another GOP contender with fundraising potential is libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul. As the spiritual godfather of the tea party movement with a devoted following, particularly among young conservatives, he has a ready, enthusiastic base. On a recent fundraising day, he raised $1 million in a â€śmoney bomb.â€ť But for now, analysts donâ€™t see him breaking out of his role as a niche candidate.