By JIM RUTENBERG and JEFF ZELENY, The New York Times
The vaunted Republican network of high-dollar donors and fund-raisers, for so long a fear factor for Democrats, has been slow to commit itself to the 2012 presidential candidates, contributing to the faltering start of the partyâ€™s drive to unseat President Obama.
So far, only former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has assembled a strong bench of the top Republican financiers. Scores of other fund-raisers remain unaligned, waiting with their money â€” and contact lists â€” in their pockets as prospective candidates bombard them with phone calls, e-mails and in-person visits around the nation.
â€œItâ€™s not at the top of the agenda for most folks right now,â€ said Brian Ballard, the Florida finance chairman for Senator John McCainâ€™s 2008 presidential bid, who has heard from all of the potential hopefuls this year but, like many of his associates, has yet to choose a 2012 candidate.
A result is the chicken-egg dynamic that is delaying the partyâ€™s urgent need to begin raising money to defeat an incumbent president whose fund-raising goals are as high as $1 billion. Potential candidates have been slow to get into the race without the assurance that they can raise the money necessary for a credible campaign, while donors are waiting to see how the field develops before making decisions.
Many prospective candidates â€œwant to have more tangible evidence that the support will be there if they start out,â€ said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican Party chairman who now leads the American Conservative Union. â€œThen there are the donors who donâ€™t yet have a candidate â€” theyâ€™re being more cautious to say, â€˜You know what, Iâ€™m waiting it out to see what the whole field looks like.â€™ â€
The early stages of any presidential campaign involve an intense competition, waged largely out of public view, for the allegiance of a core group of fund-raisers â€” the â€œbundlersâ€ who pledge to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars on a candidateâ€™s behalf from business associates, political allies, friends and neighbors. Under President George W. Bush, the Republicans built a network of hundreds of well-connected and energetic bundlers, a good portion of whom went on to help Mr. McCain in 2008.
Mr. Romney has won the support of some of the highest profile Republican bundlers. They include Mel Sembler, a Florida developer; Wayne Berman, a Washington lobbyist; and Lewis M. Eisenberg, a New York financier who said Mr. Romney was winning over donors by emphasizing that his focus would be â€œspurring the economy, creating jobs and tackling the deficit.â€
To read more, visit: Â http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/us/politics/08repubs.html?_r=1&hpw
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