Romney’s Wallet Keeps Him in the Race
By: Wall Street Journal
Cash Is Major Asset As Some Opponents Run Perilously Low
By ELIZABETH HOLMES
TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney lost three of the first five big Republican contests and lags behind in most major state and national polls. Yet he is still widely seen as a credible contender for the nomination thanks mainly to one trait: his wallet.
A senior aide to Mr. Romney says the millionaire investor plans to spend as much as $40 million in the campaign. Mr. Romney spent $17.4 million of his own money on his campaign through the third quarter of last year, according to the Federal Election Commission.
By comparison, Arizona Sen. John McCain raised a total of $31.4 million in individual donations during the same period. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee raised $2.3 million.
At a time when some campaigns are running dangerously low on funds, Mr. Romney’s ability to self-finance will make it difficult to count him out of the race until the very end.
“At the end of the day, he doesn’t have to worry about the things that other people have to worry about,” said Ed Rollins, a senior adviser to Mr. Huckabee who recently agreed to forgo his $25,000 monthly paycheck because the campaign was running out of money. “He just goes to his ATM machine and pulls out whatever he needs.”
“Each of us runs our campaign the best way we know how,” Mr. Romney responded yesterday, “given, if you will, the cards we were dealt.”
Mr. Romney’s use of his wealth doesn’t seem to bother Republican voters. “I think he’s fortunate,” said Freeman Healy, an 85-year-old retiree who lives in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Mr. Healy hasn’t decided between Messrs. Romney, McCain or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but he, like many other Florida residents, said Mr. Romney’s wealth wouldn’t be a concern. “He’s worked hard and he earned it,” he said.
Mr. Romney, who is reportedly worth at least $250 million, is certainly not the first, or the largest, self-financing politician. Ross Perot spent a combined $71 million in his pair of bids for the Oval Office in 1992 and 1996. Steve Forbes gave $76 million of his own money during two unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000. And the White House isn’t the only prize that prompted others to dig deep in their pockets. Jon Corzine, the former head of Goldman Sachs and Democratic governor of New Jersey, spent more than $60 million on his successful U.S. senate race in 2000.
For presidential hopefuls, money matters most during the primary season — as a rule, it’s easier to get donations during the general election — and never more than this cycle. The front-loaded schedule leaves little time for victors of key states to hold fund-raisers and cash-in on their winnings. Feb. 5, known as Super Tuesday, will be the toughest time of all, with the candidates trying to hit as many of the 21 states holding Republican contests as possible. Each contender needs millions of dollars just to stay viable.
What is more, the crowded field of candidates brings stiff competition for the same sources of money. Discontent within the Republican Party and unhappiness with the current administration have shrunk that funding pool considerably and fewer dollars are up for grabs. The Democratic candidates raised $241.1 million through the third quarter of last year, according to the Federal Election Commission. That is compared with $175.1 million by the Republicans in the same time period.
With victories in only two early states, Mr. McCain, a divisive figure among core Republicans, doesn’t have enough wins to generate the sure-fire funds. Mr. McCain is holding a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser at Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse in Washington Monday evening, the night before the Florida contest.
Mr. Huckabee saw a boost in funds after his Iowa victory, but his inability to carry another state has slowed his income. Mr. Giuliani, who has bet his campaign on a strong showing in Florida, had more individual contributions than Mr. Romney through the third quarter of last year ($44.3 million versus $43.7 million). But his poor showing in other states dried up his crucial game-time income.
The figures made public so far, meaning what the campaigns are required by law to report, are through only the third quarter of 2007. That’s well before the state-by-state competition — and, consequently, the big spending — got under way. Now, with the major states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over and done, funding has never been tighter. Yet, with Florida and Super Tuesday on the horizon, the need has never been greater.
All of the Republican candidates, including Mr. Romney, are having potentially campaign-killing fund shortages and are searching for money at every spare moment. But Mr. Romney is the only one who is willing and able to self-finance. “We have sufficient resources to keep our campaign going forward,” Mr. Romney told reporters in Coral Springs, Fla., on Tuesday. “But there’s only a week to go [until the Florida contest], and surely everybody has sufficient resources to keep their campaign going.”
Reports suggest otherwise. Staffers for both Messrs. Giuliani and Huckabee, two former front-runners, have agreed to forgo their pay in the name of their campaign. Mr. Huckabee’s campaign also stopped arranging travel for the press — even though the media pays for its own travels.
More devastating than national press arrangements is Mr. Huckabee’s inability to buy television advertisements in Florida. Mr. McCain’s camp said it spent $1 million to air spots around the state. His campaign has reported boosts in funding after wins in both New Hampshire and South Carolina this month. Even so, he has spent valuable time away from the campaign trail at fund-raisers, including one Tuesday in New York. His campaign has a strong showing in the Florida polls, where veterans and snowbirds are drawn to his time as a prisoner of war.
–T.W. Farnam contributed to this article.
Write to Elizabeth Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org
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