In GOP race, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul are the money men

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 27 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Early on, the tea party favorite built a base of small but repeated donors. But she's faced the challenge of pairing that network with people willing to chip in the $2,500 maximum. And, unlike some of her rivals, she doesn't have the big roster of fundraising consultants who specialize in raising big bucks. A huge investment in Iowa last month resulted in victory at an early test vote in the lead-off caucus state. But she fizzled out after that as Perry eclipsed her in state and national polls.

Now there are indications that she's struggling to raise the money needed to keep up with what Republicans say is a campaign that has a high "burn rate" in political speak, referring to the amount of money a campaign is spending against how much they're bringing in. Many of her top staffers have left the campaign, and she has scaled back what early on were slickly produced and costly events. It's unclear exactly how much she will report, and she was working right up to the deadline to prove she still was bringing in enough to compete.

There's no question that others are worse off.

Gingrich is expected to report a debt of around $500,000, substantial though less than the $1 million debt he posted three months ago. Santorum isn't in the red, though he's running a slimmed down campaign with few staffers and expenses. Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza, has loaned himself $500,000 to keep running and says he's not paying as much attention to fundraising.

"Message is more important than money," said Cain.

Maybe to him.

Both Romney and Perry who lead the field in polls are working feverishly to prove their strength.

Romney, who has a fundraising network left over from his first campaign, has been "lining up" cash since spring in anticipation of a protracted nomination fight that will require loads of money. He is expected to raise less than the $18 million he brought in earlier this year, though he still will lead the field in overall money raised.

"We expect to raise what we need to run a competitive campaign," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

Perry has been in the race less than two months, and his report will be dissected for clues about just how healthy his campaign really is, especially in the wake of shaky debate performances this month. His aides are working to make sure they collect on the promises donors have made over the past few months.

"It's hard cash and not good intentions that matter," said David Carney, Perry's top strategist. He noted that it takes time to put a fundraising operation in place, saying: "That doesn't happen in mere weeks."

Associated Press writer Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., contributed to this report.

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