To varying degrees, both Romney and Perry are in a race to get the stamp of approval from the GOP establishment, which hasn't fallen in line behind any one candidate as it searches for the strongest Republican to challenge President Barack Obama.
Not everyone was picking a candidate.
Christie's most dogged suitor in Iowa, energy company owner Bruce Rastetter, said he planned to take his time before deciding who he would endorse. Rastetter expects to talk with Perry, Romney and perhaps others in the coming weeks. Romney aides said they had reached out to Rastetter and were planning a conversation, either by phone or in person.
"I look forward to engaging them in a discussion on some of the issues," Rastetter said Thursday. "I want to kind of evaluate it."
The behind-the-scenes courtship of donors and activists is a laborious — but necessary — process for the candidates.
"These races take so much money and so much organization, and of course a candidate who really knows the issues — including having a real understanding of foreign affairs," said Austin Barbour, a member of Romney's fundraising team. "It just can't happen overnight."
Money is a main goal. Romney got a head start in fundraising, bringing in $18 million in his first three months of collecting; he's likely to come in below that mark for the past three months, though he most certainly will lead Perry in cash on hand given his head start. Perry's team said he raised $17 million in his first seven weeks of campaigning and had $15 million of that in cash on hand.
The courtship of new donors and grass-roots activists reached a critical phase this week because the primary calendar has been shortened, with primary voting set to begin in just three months. In the coming weeks, candidates will have to spend more and more time campaigning to meet voters instead of making phone calls or holding private meetings
Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.
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