WASHINGTON — Only three Republican presidential candidates are worth any money — campaign money, that is.
Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Ron Paul have banked millions. But the other GOP candidates are struggling or broke, putting their candidacies in question four months before the first nominating contests take place.
Ahead of a critical fundraising deadline Friday, all of the GOP's contenders — regardless of the level of their financial health — are furiously courting donors in Texas, Georgia, Washington and elsewhere. It's a last-minute attempt to pick up cash before they file a three-month summary that will measure one aspect of the financial strength of their campaigns.
"With the support of people like you, we will be able to get America back to work again," Romney wrote to his email list Tuesday while he personally pressed donors in New York to pony up.
The candidates' own cash is just part of the picture because, this year, outside groups are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to back specific candidates. And allies of Romney, Perry and Paul all have formed so-called SuperPACs to help their preferred candidates win the nomination.
That money aside, Romney is likely to post the strongest fundraising numbers, although his spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said he'll raise "considerably less" than he did between April and June, his first fundraising quarter as a presidential candidate. In that period he reported gathering $18 million.
Perry donors claim he could hit $10 million, raised since he entered the race early last month. His advisers, however, dispute that. They're lowering expectations either so Perry's haul looks more impressive when it's announced, or it's an indication that the GOP front-runner hasn't seen a flood of money accompany the huge dose of enthusiasm he initially generated.
Paul's campaign asked supporters to celebrate the Texas congressman's Aug. 20 birthday with a donation — and they gave him $1.6 million on that day alone. It's a pattern for Paul, who can seemingly turn on the money spigot when he needs to; his loyal libertarian backers have delivered like that on five occasions, to the tune of a million or more at a time.