The last several weeks have been remarkably eventful in the world of presidential wannabe politics. Prodigal-son-for-a-week Chris Christie basked in the calls from tea partiers and Wall Street alike that he run, but eventually demurred, instead cashing in his chips (perhaps prematurely) by endorsing Mitt Romney. The eternal tease herself, Sarah Palin, finally gave us a straight answer, and it was no. And with the GOP field apparently settled — a sad day for many conservative voters, still un-enthused by their choices — everyone's focus immediately switched to the "Romney versus who?" question, with former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain earning all the buzz after gaining from Perry's momentarily waning support and actually leading in the occasional poll. But in the presidential rat race, and pardon the mixed metaphor, money is often the trump card. And going by the numbers we're still looking at a Perry-Romney matchup. Below, a breakdown of who's raised and spent the most in the three months ending September 30.
Barack Obama: $42 million
Once again, the president has out-raised almost the entire GOP field put together, not to mention the almost $30 million the Democratic National Committee raised. That $70 million total was still less than the combined $86 million the Democrats raised last quarter, but the campaign deliberately set expectations low—at $55 million — so it could then claim to be outperforming. The Obama campaign is also about to cross the million-donor threshold, certainly a symbolic mark, and has done a lot to emphasize the nearly 750,000-plus donations of $250 or less. That said, these figures mask the true strength of Obama's fund-raising apparatus, his big-dollar bundlers. Just 352 of them have so far brought in at least $55.5 million.
Rick Perry: $17.2 million
The Texas governor has seen his poll numbers plummet from the low-to-mid 30s to just 15 percent ballot support, which seems to be his core base. Despite his poor, blubbering performance in the debates so far — not much helped by his general absence in last week's Bloomberg debate — Perry's fund-raising figures mean he's in no way out of the picture. Having only entered the race about halfway through the quarter, he still handily beat his GOP brethren in the money primaries. What's more, he's only spent $2 million, leaving him with $15 million on hand. Pair that with the campaign smarts of his chief strategist Dave Carney — whose money-maximizing campaign tactics are chronicled in Sasha Issenberg's special-release e-book Rick Perry and His Eggheads — and that money, targeted to the upcoming primary campaigns, can still go a long way to changing the balance of power here.
Mitt Romney: $14.2 million
Back to being the ostensible front-runner, Romney seems to be taking a cakewalk to the nomination. And with $14.6 million in cash on hand — not to mention his $200 million fortune — Romney is certainly in a comfortable position when it finally comes time to roll out get-out-the-vote and ad campaigns for the early primaries, set to start as soon, it now seems, as late December or early January. A possible problem, however: Romney spent $12 million over the past three months, without getting any closer to breaking the 25 percent-or-so ceiling he seems to be pushing up against in the polls.
Ron Paul: $8.3 million
Paul has always been a relatively strong fund-raiser and straw poll performer, largely thanks to his super-charged libertarian supporters. That said, he raised almost double what he did last quarter and almost entirely in donations of less than $200, which does indicate that he may not be quite as fringe as some in the media would like to paint him. However, he has had to spend some serious cash — $7.6 million — this past quarter just to stay in the game, so he'll have to keep the fund-raising pressure up.
Jon Huntsman: $4.5 million
The other Mormon ex-governor in the race did surprisingly well, considering his virtual absence from the headlines since basically forever. But he has spent nearly all of it and is left with just $327,000 on hand, with twice as much campaign debt. He'll need to bring in quite a bit more cash to put in a decent showing in Iowa or New Hampshire and remain relevant as a potential future vice-presidential pick.
Michele Bachmann: $3.9 million [Updated]
The onetime tea-party darling has been grasping for a comeback since Perry gutted her support and her attempted HPV vaccine takedown of him backfired. While the New York Post had reported two weeks ago that Bachmann was running through her last $400,000 in cash, all the while with vendors knocking at her door unpaid bills in hand, it seems she's been doing a little better than indicated. Her filing with the Federal Election Commission shows the Minnesota congresswoman raised almost $4 million and still has $1.3 million on hand. A little worrying is how much she spent since June: almost $6 million, more than anyone except Romney and Paul, with seemingly nothing to show for it.
Herman Cain:$2.8 million
The current golden boy of the field, Herman Cain rode a wave of Perry defection and continuing discontentment with Romney to lead the pack, at least according to a handful of polls. But money-wise, he's still at the back. His take this quarter was roughly the same as the last, which either means his newfound name recognition didn't have time to kick in or that his supporters aren't really settled enough to want to open their checkbooks for him. But at least Cain can call on his pizza millions, right? Well, with a net worth of somewhere south of $6.6 million — which is plenty rich by most standards, but not by presidential campaign ones — he doesn't really have the Romney option of bankrolling himself.
Newt Gingrich: $808,000
The former Speaker of the House, with what's left of his campaign, managed to raise more than at least one person in the race. Which is saying something. But he also managed to spend almost all of it, leaving just $350,000 in cash and almost four times that much in debt. Gingrich even spent $70,000 of his own money on travel-related expenses.
Rick Santorum: $704,000
That's right, the former Pennsylvania senator and bona fide social conservative didn't even break the million-dollar mark. As of a few weeks ago, his campaign has just $228,000 on hand. We'll just leave it at that.
This post has been updated with additional information.
Wide Financial Gap Separates Two Tiers of Republican Candidates for President [NYT]
Perry Out-Raises Republican Field in Short Quarter [Caucus/NYT]
Obama campaign, DNC raise $70 million in third quarter [Politico]
Obama Bundlers Raise $55.5 Million For President's Re-Election [HuffPo]
Bachmann's Campaign Crunch [NYP]
For the number-happy among you, we've linked here to the FEC fund-raising reports for each of the campaigns: Obama for America, RickPerry.org, Romney for President, Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee, Jon Huntsman for President, Friends of Herman Cain, Rick Santorum for President, Bachmann for President, and Newt 2012.