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Perry team raises more than $17 million

AUSTIN, Texas — His poll numbers may be dropping, but Gov. Rick Perry has amassed a hefty pile of cash to fuel his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

Perry has raised more than $17 million since entering the race Aug. 13 and has $15 million in cash on hand to charge into the early presidential contests that are just over three months away, Perry’s campaign announced Wednesday.

Analysts said the totals show that Perry, a proven fundraiser in his home state, can operate on a national scale and will have the financial muscle to wage a strong campaign.

“It certainly shows that he’s coming out guns a-blazing,” said Michael Beckel, a spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors federal campaign spending. “He was able to come out of the starting gate and raise some pretty significant cash.”

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson said he raised $8 million in the three-month reporting period and pointedly noted that his 100,000-plus donors are about five times the 22,000 who gave to Perry.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the current Republican front-runner, raised $18 million in the second quarter but has not disclosed his latest three-month total. CNN, citing a source, said the figure is expected to be in the range of $11 million to $13 million.

“Rick Perry raised less than what Mitt Romney raised in the first quarter, and we feel confident about the strength of our finance team and the fact that we are adding new people every day,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.

But Perry’s supporters said that the Texas governor’s fundraising totals were particularly impressive because Perry and his fundraising team had only 41 days to assemble the cash. Perry entered the race midway into the 92-day quarterly reporting period.

“The generous contributions from Americans across the nation prove the overwhelming support for Gov. Perry’s principled, conservative leadership and vision to get America working again,” said Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson.

The reporting period ended Friday, with Perry and other candidates make a frenzied final scramble to bolster their totals. Texas first lady Anita Perry and surrogates such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal fired off written appeals to potential donors in an attempt to maximize the total.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who agreed to help the Perry camp raise $100,000, said he easily exceeded that goal, raising a total of $180,000 and getting commitments for $70,000 more. “He’s off to a great start,” Abbott said. “I just called up people and asked [them] to support Rick Perry for president, and they were proud to do it.”

Candidates have until Oct. 15 to file a formal report that includes a breakdown of the donors. Perry’s camp set a minimum goal of $10 million and 18,000 individual donations.

The fundraising numbers represent welcome news for Perry supporters, who have watched the one-time Republican front-runner tumble out of the lead after sub-par debate performances and attacks from his rivals.

Just over half of Perry’s donations came from out of state, demonstrating the governor’s ability to reach beyond traditional support in Texas, his backers said. Donations came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, the Perry campaign said.

“Texas clearly helped jump-start the campaign, but for them to get where they are they had to raise money from outside of Texas,” said Henry Barbour of Yazoo City, Miss., a consultant and informal adviser to the campaign who committed to raising $500,000. Barbour is the nephew of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Perry and his campaign strategists began reaching out to potential donors well before he entered the race, to make sure enough money could be raised to go the distance.

In his three campaigns as governor, Perry raised $102 million, much of it from wealthy donors, under a state campaign system that permits unlimited individual contributions. But the dynamics are different in a federal contest, with per-person contributions capped at $2,500. That forces Perry and other candidates to rely heavily on so-called bundlers, who use their contacts and fundraising skills to assemble large amounts of donations.Perry also made numerous fundraising appearances, including a six-city Texas swing. An event at the City Club in Fort Worth on Aug. 30 raised about $600,000. Hosts included wealthy philanthropists Lee and Ramona Bass and John and Ann Marion.