Wow: Bachmann tops Romney in first quarter fundraising

Actually, Ron Paul raised more than both of them, but because he did it through his nonprofit, those funds can’t be used for his presidential campaign.

I’m skeptical that she’ll be able to keep pace once wealthy donors open the floodgates for Mitt, but this is good press at a moment when she’s trying to convince people she’s a credible threat to win Iowa. And really — isn’t she? Especially with Romney already having more or less written the state off? Even if she doesn’t win, she stands an excellent chance of crippling Gingrich, Pawlenty, Barbour, and/or Palin by soaking up “true conservative” votes in a state each of them needs to have in order to launch him/her into South Carolina. She’s a giant-killer in the making. Which means, ironically, the only person happier than Bachmann about this news is … Mitt Romney. The more formidable she looks in Iowa, the less capable his opposition will be of sustaining a “long, hard slog” to the nomination.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the most aggressive fundraisers on Capitol Hill, collected $1.7 million for her re-election campaign during the first three months of the year, a Bachmann adviser told CNN Friday.

And since that money sits in a federal account, it can be transferred to a presidential campaign account should the Tea Party favorite officially join the race for the Republican nomination in 2012…

All told, she raised $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2011.

That total is greater than the $1.9 million raised during the same period by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, considered the national frontrunner in the GOP presidential race.

Romney’s money was raised through his PAC so, as with Ron Paul’s haul, it’s untouchable when his campaign finally rolls out. Not a big deal, though: He’s already on the road doing grip-and-grins with rich Republicans so that he hits the ground running once he’s in. On the other hand, John McCormack notes that Bachmann’s money likely comes from direct mail, which means she may be getting constant cash infusions from her base down the road while Romney’s tapping out the big money early. I’d still rather be in his position than hers, but underestimate her at your peril.

Speaking of well-funded giant-killing candidates whom grassroots conservatives love, an improbable Rand Paul presidential run appears to be getting closer. He’ll have money to burn too, thanks to the Paulnuts, and I’m convinced that his appeal will be broader than his old man’s thanks to his visibility on budget cuts over the past two months. He’s not going to win any primaries, but he’s another person like Bachmann who can cripple the top contenders by bleeding away base votes that they need. And if nothing else, Paul will enforce discipline among the field on spending and entitlements as the primaries wear on by dragging them to the right. They won’t need much nudging — anyone who’s timid on deficits at the debates will be finished quickly — but I can imagine Paul continuing to dog Romney well into the spring and long after more credible candidates have dropped out, just to keep him honest on ObamaCare and spending. That’ll be risky insofar as it’ll pressure Mitt to tack right at a moment he’s trying to appeal to indies before the general election campaign, but it might also make Romney’s nomination more palatable to the base if it works.

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