Commentary Magazine


Romney’s Fundraising Gives Opening for Late-Starting Candidates

Mitt Romney easily outraised his GOP competitors in the second quarter, hauling in $18.25 million. But this was a predictable outcome that can’t exactly be viewed as a win. In order for Romney to chalk this up as a success, he would have needed to meet or exceed the $23 million he raised in the first quarter of 2007. The fact he failed to do so raises a couple of concerns for his campaign:

1. There’s reluctance to back Romney, despite a lack of strong alternatives: Romney’s inability to top his 2007 record — and his failure to come anywhere close to meeting his initial goal of $50 million — had little to do with competition from other candidates. During the first quarter of the race back in 2007, Rudy Giuliani brought in $15 million and Sen. John McCain around $12 million. Compare that to Romney’s challengers in 2011: His closest competitor is Ron Paul, who raised $4.5 million. The remaining candidates — Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich — each pulled in less than $3 million.

While Romney has maintained leads in the polls, Republicans don’t seem as willing to put their money on him. The good news for his campaign is the money isn’t going elsewhere, but the bad news is Romney still hasn’t figured out how to get it.

2. This gives an opening for a late-starting candidate to jump into the race: While a few months ago some potential candidates may have hesitated to enter the race based on reports the Romney campaign would raise close to $40 million, the intimidation factor is no longer there. It’s clear the big money donors haven’t settled on a candidate yet, leaving a prime opportunity for late-starters to throw their hats in. Romney’s fundraising totals also alleviate the concern about whether it would be possible for a late-summer or early-fall candidate to catch up. We now know it would be very much feasible, especially for a strong contender.