Mitt Romeny, Fundraising LeaderThe latest fundraising figures are available for all presidential candidates for the first quarter of 2007. It was no surprise that Senator Hillary Clinton raised the most cash. It was nothing short of astonishing that Mitt Romney was a very close second to her. The AP is running a story that has been picked up all over the world. CNN’s version is typical. Updated 9:03 a.m Hugh Hewitt has an interesting post on the New York Times’ take on the Romney fundraising success. Briefly glancing over the Times’ article, I think Hewitt has a point. The Times is playing the Mormon Church card in Romney’s fundraising success, which is simply inaccurate.

According to CNN’s article, Mitt Romney raised $23 million, almost double the amount of Senator John McCain, once considered the man to beat in the Republican primaries. Check out the popup link in the article to see graphic of all candidates and their fundraising:

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney reported Monday he had raised $23 million for his presidential campaign during the first three months of the year, shaking up the GOP field. Sen. John McCain of Arizona lagged with $12.5 million raised.

McCain, at one point considered the Republican to beat, acknowledged he had “hoped to do better” in the first quarter of the year, although his campaign manager, Terry Nelson, said in a statement: “Fundraising in the first quarter is no more important than fundraising throughout the entire primary election campaign.”

The figures released can include contributions, transfers from other campaign accounts and loans.

Meanwhile, the current leader in Republican presidential surveys, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said his donations totaled $15 million — including more than $10 million raised during March alone.

This puts Mitt Romney in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, even though he does not have the greater name recognition as McCain or Giuliani. In another AP article carried by the Guardian, Romney concluded that his successful fundraising efforts directly resulted from people connecting with his positive message:

BOSTON (AP) – Mitt Romney on Tuesday credited his lead in Republican presidential fundraising to “a message that’s connecting” and said he isn’t worried about his relatively low standing in the polls.

The former Massachusetts governor, who posted a staggering $23 million in first-quarter fundraising, said “the polls at this stage are name ID. … Of course, I’m not a household name.” He said he’s concentrating his early efforts on organizing and fundraising in the early delegate-selection states.

Interviewed Tuesday on the morning news shows, Romney, who has cast himself as an outsider in his bid for the GOP nod in 2008, said “it’s a message that America’s strength is derived by people, not the government, and we need somebody who’s not a politician to make sure the government understands that.”

Romney, who has an appearance scheduled in New Hampshire later Tuesday, has urged people to watch his campaign surge as early polls have shown him trailing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain.

On Monday, it burst into full glory after just three months.

Romney, still relatively unknown across the country, bested not only McCain and Giuliani in first-quarter fundraising, but registered a performance that rivaled the $26 million previously announced by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I’m heartened by the fact that I’ve received extraordinary contributions from all over the country,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Romney’s successful fundraising will also elevate his press coverage, and by extension further light upon the Church. This can be a good thing, particularly if positive and balanced coverage helps to dispel the myths that some people hold about the Church and its doctrines and beliefs.

While I’m pleased to see Romney have success, I’m still very troubled about his war positions. For the life of me I can’t figure out why he wants to tie his hopes to the failed Bush administration policies in Iraq, particularly when an overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to the Iraq war. I also think it negatively reflects on the Church, indirectly of course.

The other downside about the fundraising story is the sad fact that it takes so much money to run an effective presidential campaign. Having to raise so much cash has to compromise an candidate’s independence to some degree, even if that candidate is Mitt Romney. The 2008 campaign is roaring off in an incredible start. Time to buckle up!

Note: PDOE has an interesting post over at Mormon Mentality on a different aspect of Romney’s successful fundraising.

See also Sherpa’s pretty cool post on this over at Discussions of a Different Sort.