Ouch: Tim Pawlenty Raises Anemic $4.2 Million For Presidential Bid

Tim Pawlenty raised a disappointing $4.2 million in his first quarter as a presidential candidate, falling short of expectations and raising questions about his ability to compete with the better-funded Mitt Romney and buzzier Michele Bachmann.The former Minnesota governor hoped to establish credibility early as a legit challenger to Romney’s frontrunner status, but he was hampered by a weak debate performance in which he appeared hesitant to go after his rival on health care. Romney is expected to raise between $15 and $20 million with more cash flowing into independent PACs loyal to his candidacy, meaning he may quintuple Pawlenty’s numbers or more.

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant noted that then-struggling Mike Huckabee and John McCain had less cash at the same point in 2007 before they turned things around.

“Gov. Pawlenty will report that his campaign has raised about $4.2 million, and begins the third quarter with more available cash-on-hand than the Republicans who won the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary had in July 2007,” he said in an e-mail to reporters.

It will be tough to gain ground without more cash, however: already a number of Pawlenty staffers are barely being paid and the campaign is reportedly planning to spend as much as $1.75 million on the upcoming Ames Straw Poll in Iowa.

“Pawlenty is not out but he is paying the price for a poor debate performance and a lack of campaign leadership,” one unattached Republican strategist told TPM. “Donors who were ‘sizing-up’ Pawlenty are disappointed….While [they] like Pawlenty’s ‘executive’ experience and his stance on the economy they are concerned that he doesn’t have the right stuff to win. They are also not impressed with who is running his campaign.”

Pawlenty can take comfort in lackluster fundraising from rival Jon Huntsman, which were inflated by a $2 million personal loan to the campaign. And even though Romney dominates the cash race so far, his numbers are at least expected to be a little below expectations. The rest of the field has yet to release their numbers.

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