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Rick Perry Raises $17.2 Million To Lead GOP Field, But Cracks Emerge

First Posted: 10/15/2011 3:20 pm Updated: 12/15/2011 4:12 am

WASHINGTON -- Despite a late entrance into the Republican presidential primary, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has reported an impressive $17.2 million in campaign donations from his Aug. 13 announcement through the end of September, according to a disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday. A closer look at the numbers brings out some worrying signs for the one-time GOP front-runner.

The Perry campaign raised more money in the third quarter than that of the presumptive front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, by a margin of $3 million and currently has more than $15 million cash on hand to lead the Republican pack. The haul is all the more striking as it came in just a month and a half, while Romney and the other candidates had a full three months to raise their third-quarter totals.

Like Romney, Perry is suffering from an inability to raise money from a broad base of supporters, usually measured by the number of small-dollar donors. Perry raised $13.4 million of his $17.2 million from donors giving between $2,500 and $5,000. He only raised $698,820 from donors giving less than $200, which was 4 percent of his total contributions, the lowest percentage for any current presidential candidate.

Perry is also largely reliant on money from Texas. He gathered $9.7 million from his home state, 56 percent of his total. While Texas is the breadbasket of campaign money for Republican politicians generally, Perry may have to broaden his base outside the state.

Employees of some companies close to the governor gave big to his campaign. Those working for the accounting firm Brint Ryan, a Perry backer also affiliated with the pro-Perry super PAC Make Us Great Again, donated a total of $152,800. USAA employees, mostly located in Texas, gave $44,000 to the Perry campaign. The USAA contributions were likely facilitated by company lobbyist Dan Brouillette, who reported bundling $77,000 for Perry's campaign. Other big totals from a single company's employees include $32,500 from Contran Corp., owned by major GOP and Perry donor Harold Simmons, and $40,500 from Ernst & Young.

These problems -- a base of big donors who are already maxed out and a reliance on home state money -- do not bode well for a candidate who has fallen as far as Perry has in recent days.

Since entering the race to huge fanfare and rocketing to the top of the polls, Perry has fallen back to earth hard. He has come under attack from the left for his Social Security views, from the right for his vaccine and immigration policies, and from the media and pundits for appearing somnolent and incoherent in the GOP debates. Perry now hugs a giant war chest while treading water among second-tier candidates like former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann.

If Perry's fundraising numbers drop in the fourth quarter, he will still have more money than most of his competition and help from the unlimited-money super PACs backing his campaigns. The $15 million on hand will help bring his message to the public through advertising and direct mail. He'll just have to hope that voters still want to listen to what he has to say.

For more details on Rick Perry's presidential campaign, check out this slideshow:

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In the beginning of Rick Perry's political career, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1984. As a freshman, he joined other fiscal conservatives in the "pit bulls," named after where they sat in the lower pit of the House Appropriations Committee.

During the 1988 presidential primaries, he supported the candidacy of fellow Southern Democrat Al Gore and worked on his Texas campaign.

Perry ended up voting for George H.W. Bush that year and, in 1989, he switched parties to become a Republican.

Despite his party change, Perry has never lost an election, a record that goes back to elementary school.

Following his three terms in the Texas House. Perry was elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner in 1990 and was re-elected in 1994. His background as the son of a cotton farmer and an animal science major at Texas A&M University undoubtedly helped his campaign.

In 1998, Perry was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Texas. It was during this race that he had a falling out with GOP strategist Karl Rove which led to a reported rivalry with the George W. Bush camp.

When Bush won the presidency in 2000, Perry ascended to become governor in December 2000. He has been re-elected to the position three times since, making him the longest continually-serving governor in the nation.

Correction: An earlier version of this caption incorrectly stated that Perry was the chairman of Gore's Texas campaign.

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