- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was poised to collect as much as $20 million during the fundraising quarter that ends Thursday, advisers said, as his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination struggle to keep pace with the campaign’s front-runner.

With the three-month reporting period’s end in sight, the crowded field of GOP contenders made final-hour pitches for contributions that will be an early measure of their campaign’s strength — or weakness.

Mr. Romney, who was holding fundraisers in the Washington area on Wednesday and in Philadelphia on Thursday, was positioned to far outraise other Republicans looking to challenge President Obama’s well-financed re-election campaign for 2012.

Mr. Romney is expected to report raising $16 million to $20 million for the quarter, said aides. Mr. Romney, who pumped $42 million of his own fortune into his 2008 presidential race, was not planning to write himself a check this time and instead has canvassed hotbeds of GOP donors such as Texas, California and New York.

Although campaign cash does not always guarantee success at the polls, Mr. Romney’s rivals weren’t expected to match those sums.

“Your investment and commitment will send a clear message to President Obama: Failure is not an option for our nation. Please make a secure online donation through my website,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is struggling to attract cash, said in a message to supporters.

“I wanted to reach out, as I just received another call from my finance director. She reminded me that our fundraising deadline is June 30 — this Thursday — and asked if I could reach out to our supporters nationwide,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum wrote to his backers.

The campaigns have until July 15 to disclose their official hauls — and expenses, which could be more than they raised for some candidates — but advisers expected to release highlights in the coming days. Those numbers will help still-undecided donors pick which of the candidates to support.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has amassed more than $1 million in campaign bills, was expected to report fundraising troubles that would leave him in the red. While running his network of not-for-profit, advocacy and consulting organizations, Mr. Gingrich was able to raise millions from a small web of donors. Now a presidential candidate, he is limited by federal election laws and has not invested the time needed to build his donor lists.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who formally began her campaign earlier this week, is a proven fundraiser. She raised more than $13 million for her re-election to her Minnesota district and could tap into those donors who see her as a chief spokeswoman for the tea party.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian and another tea party favorite, always draws impressive fundraising sums from his loyal followers, but hasn’t yet made national inroads on his third White House bid. And Herman Cain, the Georgia businessman who never has held elected office, could surprise with his results: An unexpected third-place position in this week’s Des Moines Register poll of Iowa caucus participants gave him an unexpected boost.

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