Tuesday's Florida Republican primary could well determine Mitt Romney's fate, but two days later, we will get a partial answer to an equally interesting question: how deep into his own pockets has the former CEO of Bain Capital reached to get there.
On January 31, Romney will have to disclose one of the more closely held secrets of his bid: his own contributions to himself through the end of 2007. His aides are giving no hints.
Matt Rhoades, Romney's normally forthcoming communications director, responded to an inquiry with: "Nice. Waiting until 31st. Our opponents will have to wait. Thanks, Matt."
Romney's Press Secretary, Kevin Madden, provided a little more detail, but no specifics: "To date, public reports indicate $17 mil. Next reporting date of 1/31 will also indicate an additional contribution of his personal funds. No totals until that report date though."
The $17 million Madden referred to is actually $17.4 million, the amount Romney gave himself through September 30, 2007, the third quarter of last year.
On January 31, Romney's children will learn how much of their patrimony has gone into the campaign through the end of 2007. But, unless the campaign is more forthcoming to them than the press, they won't know how much more their dad has forked over in the month since then until February 20, the next Federal Election Commission reporting deadline.
The Huffington Post, in the pursuit of transparency in elections, asked a few people outside the campaign to estimate what the number will be, and, from our estimation, got back some pretty cautious, lowball figures.
A former top aide in the Bush 2000 and 2004 campaigns (not Karl Rove) suggested $30 million total, not just through the end of '07.
Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson replied in an email: "good question. I'm sure a lot," but let the $64 dollar question hanging: "Don't know." In a reflection of the unanimity within the Clinton campaign, press spokesman Phil Singer added succinctly, "no idea."
Conservative PR impresario and author Craig Shirley was not reluctant to take a swing: "Twice that [twice the $17.4 million, or at least $34.8 million] easily by now...,If he loses to McCain tomorrow [Tuesday], he'll dump in millions more."
The Giuliani campaign would not officially reply to inquiries, but there are some anonymous folks there who would put the figure in the $50 million range.
In the free spirit of the World Wide Web, The Huffington Post, or at least this HuffPost reporter, guesses that the report on Thursday will show between $45 and $50 million which, if we must be pinned down to a number, would be $47.5 million.
Another question will be the amount of money Romney has put into his campaign in this month alone. Fortunately, the wait to find out will not be long. Candidates will have to file on a monthly basis by the 20th of the following month, ie, February 20 for January.
We welcome readers to make their own guesses.
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