Obama outpaces total GOP campaign funding

Over the weekend, each Republican Party candidate reported the amounts they raised and spent on campaigns over the past three months.

Kevin Burbach

The race for the Republican Party presidential nomination is splintered among a field of candidates fighting each other for attention and fundraiser dollars.

Over the weekend, each candidate reported the amounts they raised and spent on campaigns over the past three months, per Federal Election Commission requirements.

Fundraising can be âÄúa measure of viability for candidates,âÄù said University of Minnesota political science professor Andrew Karch.

Front-runner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised about $14 million in the third quarter, second best in the field. Eric Ostermeier, a research associate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said Romney has been outperforming his fellow Republicans in the presidential debates.

According to OstermeierâÄôs analysis, RomneyâÄôs opponents have âÄúverbally attackedâÄù him 29 times during debates âÄî second only to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Ostermeier said Romney has handled the negative attention from his peers well.

âÄúRomney is smart enough, savvy enough and has enough debate experience that he is able to respond, and his poll numbers donâÄôt suffer,âÄù he said.

But Karch said RomneyâÄôs consistent polling results, while other candidates like Perry and Herman Cain have stolen the spotlight, suggest that there is âÄúa group thatâÄôs looking for an alternative.âÄù

âÄúIt indicates there is a segment of the Republican electorate who thinks [Romney] is not a good candidate,âÄù he said.

Karch said Romney must convince the more conservative base of the Republican Party that heâÄôs the right candidate.

Although Perry led the Republican pack in fundraising with $17 million, he has suffered in recent debates, said David Schultz, policy expert and professor at Hamline University.

âÄúI think Perry peaked several weeks ago,âÄù Schultz said. âÄúHeâÄôs made too many mistakes in the debates and heâÄôs already wounded.âÄù

Ostermeier, Schultz and Karch described Cain as the current âÄúflavor of the month.âÄù A recent Gallup poll shows 18 percent of Republicans support Cain âÄî he had 5 percent in the same poll two weeks earlier.

Schultz said CainâÄôs newfound notoriety will subject his proposed âÄú9-9-9âÄù tax plan and his background to intense public and media scrutiny. Cain was CEO of GodfatherâÄôs Pizza from 1986 to 1996, and has never held political office.

âÄúUnlike [Rep. Michele] Bachmann, who wasnâÄôt able to sustain her publicity, Cain is a better public speaker and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain it,âÄù Schultz said.

According to reports, Bachmann raised $4.1 million since July 1, putting her in the middle of the fundraising race.

University political science professor Kathryn Pearson said although Bachmann has lost steam since she won the Iowa straw poll in August, she has reasons to stick around. Pearson guessed that Bachmann will stay in the race at least until the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus in early 2012.

Schultz agreed, but said he doesnâÄôt see a future beyond Iowa for the Minnesotan representative.

As for the rest of the candidates, Schultz said he doesnâÄôt expect the field to thin any time soon.

âÄúAfter the first primary or two, weâÄôll see many drop out,âÄù Ostermeier said.

Obama lengths ahead in the fundraising race

While the current challenge for Republican candidates is the battle within their own party, the eventual faceoff will be against President Barack Obama, who raised $70 million in the third quarter as the sole Democratic candidate.

But when the Republican partyâÄôs candidate emerges, Karch said Obama âÄúwill face a headwind.âÄù

While Karch and the other experts noted ObamaâÄôs fundraising success will be helpful, his biggest problem on the campaign trail will be the troubled economy.

âÄúHe has to articulate a compelling argument of why he should be re-elected,âÄù Schultz said, âÄúespecially with the economy as bad as it is.âÄù