Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell helped lead the Republican Governors Association to a $44 million haul in 2011, more than double the association’s take four years ago, when it had a comparable number of races to underwrite. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who won his 2009 race despite being outspent roughly 5-to-1 by Democrat Jon Corzine, has since rebounded and helped raise more than $9 million for candidates across the country. And to the south, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal nearly doubled the haul of his 2007 opponent, Democrat Walter Boasso.
Most of these potential running mates are popular in their home states or districts and have loyal networks of supporters, one pattern of strong fundraisers, said Center for Responsive Politics senior fellow Bob Biersack. Others, like Rubio, have developed national constituencies and attract a high percentage of smaller, individual contributions.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” said Fred Malek, who was Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s 2008 national finance co-chair. “You’ve got to keep your enthusiasm up through many, many events and you’ve got to have the endurance to go through many events.”
Here’s a look at the fundraising chops of some of the leading candidates:
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman: Portman blew his Democratic opponent, Lee Irwin Fisher, out of the water during his 2010 Senate race. Sure, as a former House member and executive-level appointee in the George W. Bush administration, Portman had a head start on name recognition, but he still managed to bring in about $10 million more than Fisher, raising $16.5 million. His donations were split nearly evenly between in-state and out-of-state individuals donating more than $200. That includes strong showings of over $500,000 from the swing states of Florida and Virginia and traditional money powerhouse New York.
His national appeal remains strong as the 2011-12 election cycle has already shown tens of thousands of additional dollars coming in from New York and Virginia. His leadership PAC, Promoting Our RepublicanTeam, has already raked in $1.1 million. In addition to sending $21,000 to House members from the Ohio delegation, Portman has donated $95,000 to 13 Senate colleagues and Republican candidates. The PAC also contributed to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s failed presidential bid, and made a $5,000 contribution to Romney’s campaign.
Conclusion: Portman would bring Romney a sizeable base of big donors from across the geographic spectrum.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune: No challenger in 2010? No matter. Thune brought in a cool $12.5 million for his race. He spent only $5 million of that, leaving him with $7 million in cash on hand, and he has already raised an additional $1.7 million toward his 2016 race. He also has a strong national profile and an established fundraising presence in places like California, Texas, Florida and Virginia, but has also raised more than $100,000 from Midwestern states like Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Colorado. His leadership PAC, Heartland Values, was also hard at work from 2005 to 2010, raising $3.3 million. From 2008 to 2010, the PAC gave $221,000 to over 30 Republican senators and candidates around the country. This cycle, Thune’s leadership PAC donated $2,500 to Pawlenty’s campaign and recently made a $1,652 donation to Romney.