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Romney banks 9-to-1 cash edge over closest rival

/ Source: The Associated Press

Mitt Romney leads all Republicans in the contest for campaign cash, cementing his frontrunner status among contenders hoping to go up against President Barack Obama in 2012.

While Romney's $12.6 million in the bank far outdistanced a spread-out GOP field, dollars don't always translate to votes. The chasm between Romney and his rivals suggested many Republican donors are waiting on the sidelines, watching the topsy-turvy campaign foment and the candidates finally start to engage one another.

"It's a little unsettling that people have so underperformed expectations," said Dave Carney, an adviser to Texas Gov. Rick Perry who is weighing joining the race. "Clearly, there's some ... concern about either economics or about the candidates. I don't know the reason."

Romney, a ferocious fundraiser who spent weeks on the road collecting pledges and checks, added more than $18 million to his account during the April-to-June fundraising period, aides said ahead of his official filing. That sum outpaced his closest rival to announce numbers so far, Tim Pawlenty, by a 9-to-1 margin in banked cash. Yet still came up short for his campaign's internal $50 million goal for the first half of this year.

Romney aides declined to discuss how much of that haul was from his personal fortune. During his unsuccessful 2008 bid, Romney spent more than $40 million of his own money on the race.

Pawlenty, the former two-term governor of Minnesota, raised just around $4 million during the April-to-June period and has about $1.4 million available for his primary contest and some $600,000 more available if he were to capture the nomination.

The reports also detailed problems for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign was carrying more than $1 million in debt. The former Georgia lawmaker — whose bid has struggled since 18 staff members, consultants and advisers resigned en masse — raised $2.1 million for the quarter but spent $1.8 million. Gingrich listed about $322,000 in the bank.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost re-election in 2006, reported taking in $582,000, with less than $225,000 banked for his primary.

The financial picture for the 2012 presidential nominating race slowly came into clearer focus with the reports. While money doesn't guarantee success, it does pay for crucial television ads, polling to measure whether a message is working and staff to run the mechanics of a national election.

The numbers are one of the first measures of the campaigns' early strength as they look to take on Obama's well-funded re-election bid. On Wednesday, Obama's team announced it had raised $86 million during the second quarter of the year for his campaign and the Democratic Party.

Georgia businessman Herman Cain has said he raised almost $2.5 million in the first weeks of his White House bid, but some of that came out of his own pocket. His report due Friday would detail how much the talk show host and Godfathers Pizza CEO invested in his effort.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a tea party favorite, was expected to report a strong fundraising quarter.

And for Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, another darling among tea partyers, the numbers would preview her fundraising potential on a national scale. She raised $13.5 million for her own campaign in the 2010 election.

Aides said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has collected $4.1 million, but as much as half of that could be money he's put into the campaign himself.

Huntsman declared himself a candidate in June, but did not file his paperwork with the FEC until July. That means the first disclosures from the Huntsman camp will be on Oct. 15, when the July-through-September report is due.

On the race sidelines, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said her political action committee reported raising about $1.7 million during the first six months of the year and spending almost as much, about $1.6 million. The 2008 vice presidential pick has flirted with a White House run and has said she plans to make a decision later this summer.

Should she run, Palin could not legally shift SarahPAC's $1.4 million in the bank into a presidential race.