US & Canada

Possible 2012 contenders rake in campaign cash

Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin
Image caption The fundraising prowess of Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin have made them leading contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination

Possible contenders for the next Republican nominee for president are among US political candidates releasing financial reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week. But what does all the cash signify?

There are few things that Washington's political establishment enjoys more than speculating on presidential elections.

But with more than two years until the next one, there are few concrete developments to analyse - which is why the chattering classes here spend so much time poring over fundraising figures.

Each quarter, candidates file financial reports to the FEC, the authority which regulates campaign spending.

Even this far out from an election, these figures provide insight into the level of support candidates have within their party.

And because presidential campaigns in the US are so expensive, a candidate's fundraising ability is a key litmus test for their viability as a national nominee.

Romney out-raises rivals

In the latest round of FEC filings, released this week, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney flexed his fundraising muscles.

Mr Romney raised $1.8m (£1.17m) in the last quarter, bringing his total this year to almost $3.5 m (£2.28m). That is more than double the efforts of his potential rivals.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ramped up her fundraising activities this quarter, raising almost $866,000, while Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty raised around $724,000.

Other potential candidates including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour trail their possible competitors, with less than $300,000 each.

Helping hands

But perhaps more important at this early stage is the amount these GOP favourites have contributed to politicians facing election this November.

Assisting fellow Republicans can engender goodwill within the party.

"One critical element for the party or for any national campaign is a working, well-functioning infrastructure. Supporting candidates in critical statewide races helps build a foundation that also pays dividends for candidates down-ballot," Kevin Madden, a well-regarded Republican consultant in Washington DC told the BBC.

Mr Madden worked as Mr Romney's national press secretary during the 2008 campaign.

"For any prospective national candidate, it makes sense to invest resources and energy with the campaigns now, so that should you decide to run the building blocks have been laid for a larger network to help support that campaign," Mr Madden said.

On this measure, Mr Romney again leads the pack. He's donated $487,000 to the campaigns of other conservatives.

He gave $42,000 to South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who's considered a rising star in the Republican party. Moreover, South Carolina is a critical early primary state - and one where Mr Romney performed poorly in 2008.

Lessons from 2008

Mr Romney has also given large sums to candidates in key Republican states including the state that hosts the first primary contest in the nation - Iowa - and the southern Republican strongholds of Texas and Georgia.

Mr Romney failed to carry a single southern state in his battle with John McCain for the Republican nomination in 2008.

Some of his campaign tactics antagonised other conservatives, who considered his actions as unduly negative towards his fellow Republican.

Judging by his lavish contributions, Mr Romney appears determined not to make the same mistake in 2012.

Not to be outdone, Sarah Palin has increased her financial support to other Republicans, including Ms Haley.

Mrs Palin had been criticised by pundits for not using her resources to aid other Republicans.

This quarter, Ms Palin contributed almost 10% of her haul on other candidates, fuelling speculation that she's serious about a run in 2012.

Perhaps she's learned some lessons from 2008 too.

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