WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican Mitt Romney reported raising $23
million for his presidential campaign during the first three months
of the year, a surprising tally for a relative newcomer and an
amount rivaling the total reported a day earlier by Democrat
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Meanwhile, the GOP front-runner in the polls, former New York
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said his donations totaled $15 million -
including more than $10 million during March alone.
Both Republican numbers blew away past party presidential
fundraising standards, while Romney's figure put the former
Massachusetts governor in competition with Clinton, the New York
senator who on Sunday reported raising $26 million between Jan. 1
and March 31.
The third leading GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had
not reported his total by Monday morning.
"Facing opponents in an extremely competitive fundraising field
who enjoy universal name identification and the clear advantage of
existing networks of contributors, Governor Romney's fundraising
totals are indicative of the extraordinary success the campaign has
had at building an organization and stirring excitement among
grassroots activists responding to his message," said Romney
spokesman Kevin Madden.
Giuliani said he has raised nearly $17 million since he formed
his presidential exploratory committee in November and had $11
million cash on hand as of Saturday,most of which is money intended
for the primary fight.
That was the end of the first fundraising deadline of the year.
The fundraising totals are a crucial test for the candidates and
indicate whose campaign is strongest less than a year before the
first primary votes are cast.
In a statement, Mike DuHaime, Giluiani's campaign manager, said
the campaign was thrilled with the total, despite what he called a
"late start" to fundraising. The ex-mayor held his first
fundraiser in New York in December. Other top rivals didn't do so
until January or later.
In the Democratic race, aides to former North Carolina Sen. John
Edwards said his $14 million in new contributions included $1
million for the general election.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who also is seeking his party's
presidential nomination, has yet to release his total, touching off
speculation of a major announcement.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, also seeking the Democratic
nomination, said he had raised $6 million and had more than $5
million cash on hand.
Aides to Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said he raised more than $4
million, transferred nearly $5 million from his Senate campaign,
for a total of $9 million in receipts, with $7.5 million in the
bank. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., lagged behind, with his staff
reporting that he had total receipts of nearly $4 million, nearly
half of which was transferred from his Senate campaign account.
Romney's total included a surprising asterisk: a $2.35 million
loan from the candidate himself. In January, the Republican stunned
the field by raising $6.5 million in a single day, a "National
Call Day" in which he invited his supporters to Boston and asked
them to call their professional and social circles for donations.
At that time, the millionaire venture capitalist said "it would
be akin to a nightmare" if he donated to his campaign, although he
reserved that right. On Monday, a senior adviser said Romney ended
up loaning the funds as "seed money" for his campaign.