- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

After slipping from 8 percent to 3 percent among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in the latest (March 23-25) national USA Today/Gallup Poll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney surprised a lot of folks by announcing that his presidential campaign had collected $20.6 million in contributions during the first quarter. Mr. Romney’s total exceeded the money raised by presumptive GOP front-runner John McCain ($12.5 million) by 65 percent. Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, who is leading Messrs. McCain and Romney among Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and national polls, raised an impressive $15 million in the first quarter, relegating Mr. McCain to third place among Republicans.

It is a sign of the times that Mr. McCain’s disappointing pre-election-year first-quarter total of $12.5 million smashed the record from previous presidential cycles by more than 40 percent. That record belonged to then-Vice President Al Gore, who raised $8.9 million during the first quarter of 1999. After being pummeled by Mr. Romney on the fund-raising front during the 2007 first quarter, Mr. McCain’s campaign felt compelled to issue a statement assuring supporters that his operation was “taking the necessary steps to ensure fund-raising success moving forward.”

Many analysts speculated that Mr. McCain’s relatively poor showing reflected intense dissatisfaction within Republican circles over the Arizona senator’s successful effort to pass campaign-finance “reform” legislation despite overwhelming (more than 80 percent) Republican congressional opposition. Here’s another possibility: It is safe to assume that Republicans with the financial wherewithal to donate the maximum of $4,600 ($2,300 for the primaries and $2,300 in anticipation of the general election) are not happy that Mr. McCain is one of only two Republican senators who opposed both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which were supported 211-0 and 224-1, respectively, by House Republicans.

Also worth contemplating is the fact that a one-term, blue-state, social-issue-flip-flopping GOP governor like Mr. Romney, who has been unable to break out of single digits among Republicans in national Gallup polls conducted since the 2006 election, could still manage to raise 80 percent of the total collected by the Clinton machine. That development should surely take much of the gloss off the $26 million collected during the first quarter by Hillary Clinton.

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