GOP Worried Romney's War Chest Helps Obama, Bachmann

His $18.5 million second quarter isn't projecting frontrunner strength

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Mitt Romney crushed his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in the money-raising race, bringing in $18.5 million in the second quarter--more than quadrupling the haul of the second place guy among candidates who don't believe our currency is counterfeit. But it still wasn't good enough for some in the GOP, report Politico's Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, arguing that the "clear winner" of Republican fundraising was Barack Obama.

American Conservative Union chief Al Cardenas told Politico he worries that the Republican candidate "will be restrained by the resources to compete in the most obvious purple states" while the Democrat is free to spend across the country. Obama's campaign won't release the money totals till July 15, but it's reported 493,697 donors--twice what his campaign had in the first half of 2007, and five times then-President Bush's donor number in 2003.

But The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake suggest all is not lost. Sure, Romney didn't come close to early expectations--his campaign once aimed for $50 million in the first half of the year--but in some ways he's doing better than he did in 2007. That year, he only had $7 million more than the next-best fundraiser, Rudy Giuliani. And Romney's campaign still has $12.6 million cash on hand, which Cillizza and Blake say is impressive, given "it's always tough to raise that amount of money and not spend too much doing it--and could actually extend his edge once his rivals have to say what they have left to spend."

NBC News' First Read takes note of the argument that the candidates' fundraising totals might mean a lot less since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision freed up corporations to spend money on independent election ads. "Perhaps this is true. But ask John Kerry whether ACT's resources--ACT was the Crossroads of 2004--would have been better used by the campaign itself. When you can't coordinate, it's much more difficult."

Could Romney's weaker fundraising be an opening for Michele Bachmann? Romney is giving Iowa--social conservative Michele Bachmann's home turf--a light touch in favor of going all out in New Hampshire. But The New Republic's Jonathan Chait argues that a big win in Iowa for Bachmann could help her win the Granite State too.

Romney benefits from high name recognition and front-runner status. But his vaunted fundraising advantage is far smaller than previously assumed -- he barely made one-third of his first quarter goal. Even before sustaining serious attacks, his favorable ratings in New Hampshire are dropping at rates that ought to terrify his campaign. ... Many reporters have noted that a one-on-one matchup between Romney and Bachmann is Romney's dream scenario. That's true--it's his best chance to have the establishment rally behind him. I haven't seen them mention that it's also Bachmann's dream scenario-- he gets to face off against an establishment candidate totally unacceptable to large segments of the party base.

Maybe the establishment is already starting to rally. Politico's Jonathan Martin notes Brit Hume warned Republicans on Fox that Bachmann is Obama's dream opponent.

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