WASHINGTON -- The Republican presidential class of 2012 is slacking in one of their key duties. The candidates, including those already fallen by the wayside, have combined to raise only $174 million through the end of January. That's $75 million less than the 2008 Republican presidential field had raised through January 2008.

Super PACs, the new unlimited-money campaign vehicles, have drawn much attention for the millions pouring into their coffers, raising and spending amounts nearly equal to, and in some times exceeding, the amounts brought in and spent by the candidates themselves. This dynamic, however, is driven primarily by poor fundraising on the part of the presidential wannabes.

In fact, add in the sums raised by the candidate-specific super PACs, and the current Republican field has still brought in less money than did the 2008 candidates before super PACs existed. The 2012 candidates and super PACs raised $242 million through January, compared to the $265 million raised under the old campaign finance restrictions by the Republican primary candidates four years ago.

The 2008 candidates had a head start in fundraising because their race got going about three months earlier. But exclude the money raised in the first three months of 2007, and they still bested the current crop of candidates by $20 million. Only if one excludes the money raised in the first quarter of 2007 and includes the super PAC fundraising in the current contest, do the 2012 candidates and super PACs top the 2008 candidates -- by $42 million. The two contests saw the same number of candidates: 10.

Mitt Romney, this year's leading Republican fundraiser, has raised an amount nearly identical to his total in 2008, when he was also the top GOP fundraiser at this point in the race.

But this year's contest has seen few other candidates with strong bases of financial support. Only three -- including one who has already dropped out, Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- raised more than $20 million through January. In 2008, five candidates had raised more than $20 million and three candidates had topped $45 million through January. Both Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had raised more than $60 million.

The poor fundraising situation underscores the ongoing fretting among Republican elites for a different candidate.

In the waning months of 2011 GOP leaders searched for a new face as the field underwhelmed in debates and failed to raise the kind of money likely needed to defeat President Barack Obama. All of those called, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), did not answer.

Recently, the continued inability of Romney, the ostensible frontrunner, to pile up wins has led to more muttering. A Republican senator, remaining anonymous, told ABC News, "If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate."

Republican primary voters are no different from the party elites. According to a Feb. 20 Gallup poll, 55 percent of GOP primary voters want a different candidate.

The Obama campaign, meanwhile, has raised almost exactly the same amount through January that it had raised over a similar time period in the last election. The president's reelection effort brought in $142 million by the end of January 2012, compared to $140 million by the end of January 2008 during a hotly contested primary race against Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

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