With Thursday marking the end of the second fundraising quarter, donors are well on their way to picking candidates and investing in them. Announced candidates are well on their way to setting up a fundraising infrastructure to absorb, and keep absorbing, that support. There’s nothing to stop donors from hedging their bets and backing another contender once primaries begin, but the ability of tentative candidates to claim their share of the pie can fade the longer they wait, strategists say.

“The race is going to start in earnest over Labor Day,” Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein said. Considering August can be a bad month for fundraising and base-building, he said the end of July marks a “natural cutoff point” for entering…

Blakeman and Gerstein both said Palin has the cushion of an existing fundraising operation and base. For Giuliani, they said the challenge of a late entry is even tougher because of bad memories among potential donors about the way he ran his 2008 campaign — pinning his hopes, misguidedly, on the Florida primary.