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Perry, Romney lead Republican presidential pack in funds

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Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011

In politics, money talks when you are in the front of the pack, but walks when you bring up the rear.

"If you can't raise money, you can't become president," said Michael Genovese, a Loyola University political scientist. "Running for president is very expensive, and if a candidate cannot demonstrate that he/she can pass the fundraising test, they end up fading into the darkness."

Less than 10 weeks before the traditional kick-off of presidential primary season, campaign finance reports released during the weekend gave the first indication of which Republican presidential candidates might be able to marry poll numbers with fundraising power.

With $17 million, Texas Gov. Rick Perry led the Republican hopefuls just eight weeks after his late announcement. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in second, topping $14 million.

The reports included President Barack Obama's combined fundraising efforts with the Democratic Party of more than $70 million; the president brought in more than $42 million himself, about $10.6 million shy of the combined fundraising of all the Republican candidates.

"If the president loses next year, it's not going to be because he didn't raise enough money," said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia.

The advantage the president has is that he isn't opposed within his party, Genovese said. "So while the Republicans are feverishly spending their money, Obama's war chest is drawing interest in the bank."

Green Tree native Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, raised $8.2 million and spent $7.5 million. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who owns a home in Penn Hills, reported he raised more than $700,000 in the third quarter but spent nearly $745,000.

The final tier of candidates shows larger debts and a deficit in fundraising. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich raised about $807,000 in this period and has more than $1 million in obligations. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota raised $3.9 million and is $500,000 in debt. Former Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman raised more than $2.2 million, and then lent his campaign $2.25 million of his money but reported just over $300,000 cash on hand.

No campaign wants to be in debt, and poor fundraising could be what drives some candidates from the race, said Kondik.

"A political campaign is a business like any other -- and when debt is greater than revenue, it's hard to last for long," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is paying down campaign debt from her unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign against Obama.

"Basically, she spent more than she raised in 2008, and so she still has debt," said Kondik. "The bills don't just go away at the end of a campaign; inevitably, some of the candidates this year will find themselves in her shoes."

The current Republican front-runner in recent polls, businessman and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, reported raising $2.8 million and about $1.3 million on hand. Kondik said Cain's surge didn't start until the end of the filing period, which would explain why his fundraising hasn't matched his newfound national popularity among voters.

Cain surprised his rivals in late September when he won the Republican presidential straw poll in Florida, a victory that thrust him forward in a few national polls. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey of likely voters showed him tied with Romney in the lead for the nomination. In a head-to-head with Obama, he leads with 43 percent to 41 percent, that poll found.

"The lower tier has much to reconsider, given their low fundraising numbers," said Catherine Wilson, a political science professor at Villanova University. "The fourth quarter will surely make adjustments here, if Cain's popularity continues to soar."

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