Digging Into Rick Perry’s $17 Million Haul

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Rick Perry reportedly raised $17 million in the nearly two months since he burst into the Republican presidential race. It’s an impressive haul that places the Texas governor squarely in the top-tier of the Republican money race with Mitt Romney, who apparently took in some $14 million in the the same period.

The Federal Elections Commission has yet to make Perry’s filing public, but the most eye-popping figure in early reports is his “cash on hand,” or the amount of money that Perry has yet to spend. With an estimated $15 million in the bank, it appears the Perry campaign is thriftily holding many of its resources in reserve. However, campaign finance analysts warn this figure likely does not include a full accounting of Perry’s considerable travel and personnel expenditures, thus overstating the $15 million figure.

An analysis of last quarter’s campaign filings by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics suggests that Perry will be running against a lean campaign. In July, Romney reported raising some $18.3 million, just $5.6 million of which he spent. For comparison: Michele Bachmann raised $3.6 million and spent $257,000. Herman Cain raised $2.5 million and spent $2 million. (There’s also Barack Obama, whose considerable coffers left over from 2008 allowed him to spend $80.2 million while raising just $48.7 million in the same quarter.)

Even with his initial big haul and slow burn rate, Perry will need to grow his donor base beyond Texas if he hopes to compete with the likes of Romney and, eventually, Obama. One Republican operative estimates that nearly half of Perry’s donations are coming from his home state. And expanding his support will depend on reversing his plunging popularity, evident in several recent polls. “There’s a truism in politics,” the operative says. “Money follows numbers.”