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Campaigns lowering expectations as key fundraising period ends

September 30, 2011|By Kim Geiger, Michael A. Memoli and James Oliphant
(Craig Ruttle / Associated…)

Presidential candidates will tally three months' worth of fund-raising hauls Friday as the third financial quarter of the year comes to an end.

Reports detailing when, where and from whom the candidates scored their campaign cash won't be released until mid-October. In the meantime, some campaigns have hinted that their totals won't be as large as anticipated.

Despite speculation that the 2012 presidential campaign will be the most expensive in history, none of the Republican presidential field is expected to break records with this quarter's fundraising totals.

"There were very grand expectations about record-setting fund-raising, coming in," said Brendan Glavin of the Campaign Finance Institute. "We may not be seeing that, but at the same time, it’s equal on both sides."

Even President Obama, one of the best fund-raisers of all time, is unlikely to break George W. Bush's 2003 record of $50.1 million raised as an incumbent president in the summer before a presidential election year.

Obama's finance team had hoped to raise a total of $55 million this quarter, but that goal would include donations to the president's reelection committee and the Democratic National Committee. He raised $86 million for the committees in the second quarter.

Campaign manager Jim Messina called it "an ambitious goal" and warned that the campaign had missed fund-raising opportunities over the summer because of the drama in Washington over debt ceiling negotiations, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

He tried to pick up the pace in September, holding seven fund-raisers in two days on a recent West Coast swing, in addition to events in New York where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

The focus will be the Republican field, however, where Mitt Romney will likely lose his spot as the top GOP fund-raiser to Rick Perry, the newest entrant in the race.

The Boston Globe reported Thursday that Romney was on pace to raise between $11 million and $13 million, a number his campaign declined to confirm. He raised $18.2 million in the second quarter.

"The first reporting period is usually the best finance report for a campaign. We are going to raise considerably less than what we did in our first reporting period, but we will still meet our finance goals for this quarter," spokesman Ryan Williams said.

The campaign says it is only raising money for the primary election, meaning it accepts only individual donations up to the $2,500 limit allowed by the Federal Election Commission. Candidates can raise up to another $2,500 for the general election, funds that are off limits until the candidate becomes the nominee.

It also tried to raise expectations for rival Perry, who they point out is "governor of a large state and former RGA chair," referring to the Republican Governors Assn.

"We suspect he will lead the Republican field in fund-raising for this quarter," Williams said.

Perry's camp has been less than forthcoming about its expectations, but played down a report that the candidate raked in $20 million.

Instead, the Texas governor’s spokesman has repeatedly reminded the media that Perry only entered the race in mid-August, halfway through the fund-raising period. Other reports have had Perry coming in somewhere between $10 million and $15 million. One Perry bundler estimated the haul would be in the $13-million to $16-mllion range.

Any result that beats Romney will be considered a victory. To that end, Perry spent much of the week chasing dollars, with fund-raisers in Washington, Baltimore and West Virginia. His wife, Anita, hosted a swanky affair in Houston on Thursday evening.

The campaign of Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, would not comment on its fund-raising, but expectations are low. It announced Thursday that it was shifting most of its resources to New Hampshire and laying off staff. He raised $4.1 million in the second quarter, some of that from his own bank account.

Of the $18.2 million Romney raised last quarter, nearly three-quarters came from donors who gave him the maximum allowed, according to data compiled by the Campaign Finance Institute.

By comparison, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann drew heavily on small-dollar contributors, who they can continue to draw on.

Ron Paul raised $4.5 million last spring. Spokesman Jesse Benton said Paul would report raising "$5 million or more" in the third quarter.

Bachmann raised $4.2 million in the second quarter, the vast majority of which – 75% – came in donations less than $200. But the surge that Bachmann enjoyed in the early months of the campaign began to fizzle after Perry joined the race. Her third-quarter fund-raising might have also suffered.

Gingrich outspent his fund-raising in the spring and closed the second quarter with $1 million in debt. He blamed rogue campaign consultants -- who jumped ship in June -- for the campaign's precarious financial position.

Gingrich fared better in the third quarter and paid off some of the debt, spokesman R.C. Hammond said.

"We've had a good last two weeks in fund-raising," Hammond said. "Newt will have the resources to run a very competitive campaign."

Gingrich himself, however, bristled at questions about fund-raising Thursday, telling the Times' Seema Mehta to "go home and think about why you would even ask that."

Even as the president has courted high-dollar donors on recent fund-raising trips, his campaign has been in overdrive trying to add to its roster of small donors; 98% of donors in the second quarter gave $250 or less.

One tactic is a contest to have dinner with the president, even for a donation of $5. Next month, the campaign expects to reach 1 million total donors.

Hillary Clinton holds the record -- $23.5 million -- for fundraising by a nonincumbent in the summer before a presidential election year.

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