Money Raised and Spent by GOP Pols for 2012

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"Follow the money" is standard advice for anyone trying to understand Washington. Even though no GOP politician has formally declared a run for president in 2012, gauging how much money potential candidates have raised for their political action committees—and what they’re doing with it—reveals something about their game plans: key endorsements they’re trying to secure and volunteer networks they’re aiming to harness. Some of these pols are starting to rev up. Others, not so much.

 

Mitt Romney

How Much he’s Raised
$5,864,818

Where he’s spent it
$324,256 on competitive GOP races in almost every state

What This Means
Romney is vying for the Oval Office in the old-fashioned way. Most of his money has gone to incumbents, many in strategic states. And while he’s given to some challengers, he’s generally favored the moderate establishment, avoiding most Tea Party or other far-right candidates. (An April donation to Florida’s Marco Rubio is an exception.) He has also set up state-level political action committees in early-contest states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. What does it all add up to? “He’s running,” says one strategist working closely with Romney. “There’s no way he’s not running.”

Sarah Palin

How Much she’s Raised
$3,392,735

Where she’s spent it
$137,500 on senate and house candidates nationwide

What This Means
Count on Palin to do it her way. The former Alaska governor’s strategy is decidedly different from most mainstream candidates. Her media savvy has led her to put money into high-profile races: backing Nikki Haley in South Carolina, for instance, and pal John McCain and Rubio. Curiously, she has split her money between incumbents and challengers. But strategists caution that you can’t measure Palin simply by the way she spends. A woman who can dominate cable-news cycles with a simple Facebook post can clearly win grassroots support without having to open her checkbook.

Tim Pawlenty

How Much he’s Raised
$2,570,308

Where he’s spent it
$108,906 on mostly eastern and Midwestern senate races

What This Means
The Minnesota governor, who isn’t running for reelection this year, has been able to raise a relatively impressive amount of money. But he’s still well behind Romney. (“Remember, he still has a day job to do,” says an aide.) For now, he’s hedging his bets, donating to both Tea Party sweetheart Michele Bachmann and the more centrist Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Pawlenty set up a state-level PAC in Iowa early this year to support local and state races, then another one in New Hampshire. In just the past month, according to both organizations, he’s raised about $30,000 for each.

Haley Barbour

How Much he’s Raised
$580,152

Where he’s spent it
$62,500 on a handful of mostly southern and western races

What This Means
Barbour, the Southern backslapper and former lobbyist who has been governor of Mississippi since 2005, has allies everywhere, especially in the South. What’s more: his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association (and formerly of the Republican National Committee) comes with a very thick Rolodex. But friends are one thing and cash is another. Despite being well connected, he hasn’t gotten many checks—or written many. That said, he can dole out money to GOP gubernatorial candidates on behalf of the RGA and win chits that way.

Newt Gingrich

How Much he’s raised
$20,658,514

Where he’s spent it
only $4,000 on candidates; many millions on issue campaigns

What This Means
Don’t be fooled by the big number. Gingrich has a 527 group as well as a political action committee, and the 527 can only advocate for issues, not people. (Only $71,895 has been raised by the PAC.) Still, Gingrich’s total treasure chest does show that voters are willing to open their wallets in his name. A spokesman says the former House speaker will begin raising and distributing PAC money in large amounts this fall. Good, say strategists, because time is getting short to start building a competitive ground operation: he could easily be boxed out by Romney or Pawlenty.

Mike Huckabee

How Much He’s Raised
$1,355,427

Where he’s spent it
$84,000, mostly on challengers in southern house races

What This Means
Huckabee is serious, but not that serious. His war chest is nothing to scoff at, yet he has tossed money to only 15 candidates, and largely in nonstrategic states like North Dakota, Arizona, and Georgia. He’s also put a lot of attention on California, where he set up his only state-level PAC earlier this year. Why no focus on Iowa? A spokesman won’t say. But after winning the caucuses in the Hawkeye State in 2008, he may think he could easily do it again. Unfortunately, warns one GOP campaign consultant, in politics, and certainly in Iowa, voters have short memories.

John Thune

Thune’s PAC fundraising—$438,915—is respectable, but the South Dakota senator has to get reelected first. Look to see if he starts appearing in neighboring Iowa.

Mitch Daniels

Daniels’s reported $728,029 is notable given his low visibility. But the Indiana governor says he’ll use the money to win back Congress and hasn’t expressed interest in a White House bid.

Sources: Federal Election Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Center for Responsive Politics. AAl numbers comprehensive for 2009–10 election cycle as reported in latest filings, June 30.

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