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Newt Gingrich Surges in Polls, Lags in Money

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By Michael Beckel

While he has surged in recentpolls, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may be missing one key ingredient for making a late-stage power play for the GOP presidential nomination: money.

In years past, political candidates have certainly been erroneously written off by pundits and the press. Notably, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was widely thought to have fizzled long before he ultimately surged back to life and snagged the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2008.

While McCain looked pretty weak at one point during the 2008 campaign and still came back, he was never as behind as Gingrich money-wise. While McCain trailed in terms of fund-raising in 2007, he had still raised tens of millions of dollars. 

Gingrich lags far behind that pace -- both in absolute terms and relative to his rivals.

As of September 30, the date of the most recent campaign finance reports, Gingrich's presidential campaign had brought in just $2.9 million, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That's only about 9 percent of GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney's $32.2 million fund-raising haul during the same period.

At the end of September in 2007, McCain had raised about $32.1 million -- which was about two-thirds of the amount collected by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and about half the sum brought in by Romney during that same time period, according to the Center's research.

The graphs below illustrate the cumulative fund-raising of several of the major GOP candidates so far this year, as well as four years ago. Click on the images to enlarge.

Gingrich's receipts through the end of the third quarter are less than basically every other major GOP presidential candidate. 

He also reported debts to the tune of $1.2 million at the end of the third quarter -- more than every other GOP candidate except former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has loaned his campaign more than $2 million.

As of the end of September, Gingrich had raised only about half as much money as former Godfather's Pizza chief executive officer Herman Cain, who himself has been no fund-raising titan. 

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, meanwhile, had raised about 60 percent more money than Gingrich. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) had raised more than 4.3 times as much money as Gingrich. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry had raised nearly six times as much money as Gingrich.

Beyond the traditional campaign war chests, this election candidates will also be getting extra support from super PACs -- which can collect unlimited contributions from individuals, unions and corporations to produce political advertisements or pay for canvassers and phone banks.

A 27-year-old Coloradoan named Charlie Smith recently launched a super PAC supportive of Gingrich's presidential bid and touted an initial fundraising haul of $10,000. 

But Gingrich is not alone in having supporters create such groups to collect money from deep-pocketed allies.

A Romney-aligned group called Restore Our Future reported raising $12 million through the end of June, the date of the group's most recent campaign finance filing with the Federal Election Commission. And a Perry-aligned group called Make Us Great Again has said it plans to spend $55 million to help Perry secure the nomination.

Notably, none of this even takes into account the stark fund-raising contrast between Gingrich and President Barack Obama.

Through the end of September, Obama had raised about $89 million for his own re-election campaign. That's nearly 31 times the amount Gingrich raised during the same period. It's even more than 2.7 times the amount raised by Romney.

With Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses less than two months away, every candidate is furiously attempting to raise money. 

We'll find out soon whether there has been a new gusher into Gingrich's campaign coffers. But to be successful, he'll need to climb out of a very deep financial hole.

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