- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced yesterday that he collected $23 million in the first quarter of this year for his presidential bid, nearly doubling the figure announced by Sen. John McCain, whose campaign publicly acknowledged disappointment.

“Although we are pleased with the organization we’ve built and polls show us strongly positioned in key primary states, we had hoped to do better in first-quarter fundraising,” said McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson of his candidate’s $12.5 million first-quarter figure.

Coming in between the two was former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who announced that he has raised more than $15 million, including $10 million in March alone, a torrid pace that tracks with his gaining and maintaining a lead in the opinion polls.

“Considering our late start, we are very pleased by the pace raised in March and see it as a positive indication of what’s to come,” said Mike DuHaime, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign manager. Coupled with a fundraiser last year, Mr. Giuliani has raised close to $17 million to date.

But Mr. Romney led the Republican field, raising $20.6 million and lending his campaign another $2.4 million of his own money.

The first quarter began Jan. 1 and ended Saturday. Formal reports aren’t due to the Federal Election Commission until April 15, but campaigns have begun announcing preliminary estimates.

None of the Republicans came close to matching Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who announced Sunday that she had raised $26 million and transferred $10 million from her Senate account, giving her the largest first quarter total ever recorded.

Sen. Barack Obama, one of her chief rivals, has yet to announce his fundraising totals. The other leading Democrat, former Sen. John Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee, announced that he had raised more than $14 million.

Mr. McCain’s numbers will be the most scrutinized of the pack, because they seem to support the theory that the former front-runner has hit hard times. But his 60,000 donors is a strong number, outpacing Mrs. Clinton’s 50,000 announced donors, although lagging behind Mr. Obama’s more than 83,000.

Mr. Nelson said the McCain campaign is taking a long-range approach.

“Fundraising in the first quarter is no more important than fundraising throughout the entire primary election campaign,” he said.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, lagged far behind, reporting on his campaign blog that he had raised less than $2 million, and some of that was a transfer from his Senate campaign account. That puts him only a little ahead of Rep. Tom Tancredo, whose campaign said he expected to report about $1.3 million, and ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who said he would report about $500,000.

Mr. Brownback’s numbers likely relegate him to running a low-cost grass-roots campaign something his campaign manager, Rob Wasinger, acknowledged in the blog.

“The Republican activists who actually get out and do the hard work of winning elections are responding very favorably to Senator Brownback’s candidacy, and we are looking forward to running a strong issue-based, positive campaign and continuing to activate the grass roots,” he wrote.

As important as the money chase is how quickly the campaigns are spending.

Mr. Giuliani said he will report having $10 million cash on hand as of March 31.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said he had $7.5 million on hand. On Sunday, Mr. Dodd announced he had raised $4 million since the beginning of the year and had transferred $5 million from his Senate campaign account for total first-quarter receipts of $9 million.

“Our campaign has proven that we can go from zero to 60 in just a couple short months,” said Christy Setzer, Mr. Dodd’s spokeswoman.

No one from the campaigns of Mr. Romney, Mr. McCain or Mrs. Clinton said how much cash on hand they had.

Mrs. Clinton’s staff also said they do not know how much of her fundraising is for the general, rather than the primary, election.

Mr. Romney said all of his announced fundraising is primary funds, while Mr. Giuliani said nearly $14 million of his fundraising can be used for the primary. Candidates can raise money for both the primary and general elections now, but only primary money can be spent to win the nomination.

Mr. Romney began his exploratory bid in January with a one-day dial-for-dollars event that he said raised more than $6.5 million.

Off the fundraising trail, Mrs. Clinton grabbed endorsements from some of New Jersey’s most prominent Democrats, including Gov. Jon Corzine. Over the weekend, Mr. Corzine signed a bill allowing New Jersey to hold its primary on Feb. 5 next year.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, former Sen. Fred Thompson continues to garner attention, with his biggest booster, fellow Tennesseean and former Sen. Bill Frist e-mailing his own supporters to stir enthusiasm.

“I’ve talked to Fred on a regular basis over the last two weeks and can tell you that he is strongly considering running for president,” Mr. Frist said.

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