Big GOP donors taking time to get into 2012 race
WASHINGTON — The potential White House candidates need cash.
But donors aren't eager to shell out until the hopeful prove they're credible.
Which they can't — until they have the cash lined up to start their campaigns.
This helps explain why the 2012 Republican primary race has yet to begin in earnest.
"It's a little sluggish. The major donor folks are sitting back a bit," said Rob Bickhart, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman helping ex-Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
"The major donor folks, I think, are a little slower getting started because the whole process was slower to get started," said Bickhart, who helped raise money for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney four years ago. "The last one started, it seemed, after World War I and folks were just exhausted."
Less than a year before the lead-off primaries and caucuses, many of the Republican Party's biggest fundraisers aren't aligned with any one candidate. Mindful of the lessons of 2008, many are holding back to see who emerges as a front-runner in a field that lacks one.
"I have spoken to just about everyone," said Larry Bathgate, RNC finance chairman under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Bathgate isn't sold on a 2012 candidate yet.
"The general gist is, 'We have to get rid of Obama ... he's too leftist and out of touch,'" Bathgate said.
He agrees. But that doesn't mean he's ready to open his vast network of donors to a candidate right now. None has convinced him that he or she can run a successful national campaign.
Four years ago at this point in the campaign, Republicans hoping to succeed President George W. Bush were on the road in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Their fundraisers were burning up phone lines to pay for the frequent trips.
Not this time.