GOP ’08 fundraising totals mark new high
BOSTON (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney reported raising $23 million for his presidential campaign during the first three months of the year, shaking up the GOP field and rivaling the total reported a day earlier by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Meanwhile, the Republican front-runner in the polls, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said his donations totaled $15 million – including more than $10 million raised during March alone.
Both Republican numbers blew away past party presidential fundraising standards, while Romney’s figure put the former Massachusetts governor in competition with Clinton, the Democratic front-runner. The New York senator on Sunday reported raising $26 million between Jan. 1 and March 31.
“Facing opponents in an extremely competitive fundraising field who enjoy universal name identification and the clear advantage of existing networks of contributors, Governor Romney’s fundraising totals are indicative of the extraordinary success the campaign has had at building an organization and stirring excitement among grassroots activists responding to his message,” said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.
Romney was a venture capitalist whose only public service experience was running the 2002 Winter Olympics before he was elected to a single term as governor later that year.
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Giuliani, who conversely had moved from politics to private business in recent years, said he has raised nearly $17 million since he formed his presidential exploratory committee in November. He also had $11 million cash on hand as of Saturday, the end of the first quarter.
In a statement, Mike DuHaime, Giuliani’s campaign manager, said the campaign was thrilled with the total, despite what he called a “late start” to fundraising. The ex-mayor held his first major fundraiser in New York in December. Other top rivals didn’t do so until January or later.
Romney said all the money he raised was dedicated to the primary campaign, while Giuliani said most of his was for the primary race. Candidates can raise $2,300 from each individual for both the primary and general election races, but they cannot spend the general election money if they do not win their party’s presidential nomination.
Clinton has refused to break down how much of her money is for the primary campaign and how much would be for a prospective general election.
A third leading GOP candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was on a fact-finding mission in Iraq, had not publicly disclosed his total by Monday afternoon. The fundraising totals were a crucial test for the candidates, widely viewed as a barometer on their relative political health.
McCain lowered expectations last week for fundraising and admitted that he didn’t particularly like to raise money. He told reporters in New Hampshire that he got off to a late start for this campaign and was “going to pay a price for it.”
Republicans in Washington have privately said that McCain’s rate of spending as he builds a national campaign organization is alarming and that they don’t expect him to lead the GOP field in fundraising this quarter.
He was widely considered to be the Republican to beat late last year when he formed his presidential exploratory committee. Since then, Giuliani has opened a wide lead in national popularity polls.
In the Democratic race, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has yet to release his total, touching off speculation of a major announcement.
Among the other Democratic candidates, aides to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said his $14 million in new contributions included $1 million for the general election.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he had raised $6 million and had more than $5 million cash on hand.
Aides to Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd said he raised more than $4 million and transferred nearly $5 million from his Senate campaign, for a total of $9 million in receipts and $7.5 million cash on hand. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden lagged behind, with his staff reporting that he had total receipts of nearly $4 million, nearly half of which was transferred from his Senate campaign account.
Romney’s total included an unexpected asterisk: a $2.35 million loan from the candidate himself. In January, the Republican stunned the field by raising $6.5 million on a single day in which he invited his supporters to Boston and asked them to call their professional and social circles for donations.
At that time, the millionaire venture capitalist said “it would be akin to a nightmare” if he donated to his campaign, although he reserved that right. On Monday, a senior adviser said Romney ended up loaning the funds as “seed money” for his campaign.
The prior records for first-quarter fundraising were held by Republican Phil Gramm of Texas and Democrat Al Gore of Tennessee. Gramm raised $8.7 million in 1995, while Gore raised $8.9 million in 1999. Gramm dropped out race before New Hampshire its 1996 primary, while Gore went on to win the 2000 Democratic nomination.
Associated Press Writer Liz Sidoti in Washington contributed to this report.