Romney Lags in Small Donors as Big Givers Hit Limits

March 8, 2012 12:00 am

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Mitt Romney has more delegates, more money and more endorsements than any of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. But with a split verdict on Super Tuesday and no quick finish in sight, he is struggling to match the enthusiasm and money his rivals have harnessed from grass-roots donors.

While Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have enjoyed million-dollar surges of small checks after their primary victories, Mr. Romney has instead relied overwhelmingly on his network of high-dollar donors, attending lavish fund-raising events in Washington; Palm Beach, Fla.; and New York City that have both swelled his campaign accounts and fueled perceptions that he is favored more by his party's elite than by its conservative base.

With an unusually large proportion of his donors already giving the maximum contribution allowed by federal law, Mr. Romney's campaign has made repeated appeals to grass-roots donors in recent days, including a thank-you note from Mr. Romney, sent just minutes after he was declared the victor in Ohio's primary, asking supporters for $10 contributions.

Mr. Romney has tacked a request for help onto the end of his stump speech in recent days, directing supporters to his Web site, and the campaign is preparing a program that will allow volunteers around the country to collect contributions by swiping credit cards through iPhones.

But several factors are working against him. Mr. Romney's victories have come largely in states where he was favored to win, depriving him of the kind of dramatic upsets that can thrill grass-roots voters and spur them to donate. Interviews with more than a dozen supporters suggest that Mr. Romney has also been hampered by the widespread sense that he is the race's de facto front-runner -- and by his considerable personal wealth, which has left some of them thinking that Mr. Romney does not need their checks.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:08:53

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