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Romney expects to raise much less money this quarter

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s campaign aides estimate that they will raise “considerably less’’ this fund-raising quarter than the $18.2 million haul the campaign brought in during the previous three months.

Aides for the former Massachusetts governor are predicting that his top campaign rival — Texas Governor Rick Perry — will raise more than he will, even though Perry has been in the race for only six weeks. The fund-raising quarter doesn’t end until Friday and campaigns don’t have to file their reports until Oct. 15 but already they are playing an expectations game over the figures.

“We are going to raise considerably less than what we did in our first reporting period, but we will still meet our finance goals for this quarter,’’ said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “Rick Perry is a brand new candidate raising primary and general election dollars, and as the governor of a large state and former [Republican Governor’s Association] chair we suspect he will lead the Republican field in fund-raising for this quarter.’’

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Not to be outplayed on downplaying their expectations, Perry’s campaign offered its own sober assessment.

“Mitt Romney’s fund-raising machine has been in place for almost six years and we have been in this race for only six weeks,’’ Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “Our goal is to have the necessary resources to run a credible campaign.’’

Campaigns often try to strategically lower expectations before they formally announce their fund-raising figures, as a way to offer a surprise victory. In this case, the fund-raising numbers will provide an early indication of Perry’s strength and Romney’s staying power. Perry had a robust financial operation in Texas, but the state doesn’t have campaign contribution limits like the federal system. Romney has had years to build up a fund-raising base and has long ties to the well-heeled business community.

Raising money has been a major focus for the campaigns in recent weeks, with frequent stops in areas rich with Republican donors. Romney was in New York today, followed by a fund-raiser tomorrow night in Boston. Perry has been holding fund-raisers nearly everywhere he goes, with stops planned tonight in Washington.

Independent outside groups have also been raising money for both Romney and Perry and are expected to play a major role in the primary race.

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The rest of the field would likely fall far behind Romney and Perry, although Representative Ron Paul of Texas has proven adept at raising money online.

Romney is still not planning to inject any of his own money into the campaign at this stage, according to communications director Gail Gitcho.

The former venture capitalist has been coy about whether he would tap his personal wealth during the campaign.

“That’s counsel I’m going to keep with Ann and myself, and that’s all,’’ he told reporters in May, referring to his wife.

Romney raised $18.2 million during the fund-raising period after he announced his candidacy in the spring. That was far more than any of his rivals. Perry has been seen as the one candidate in the field who could compete with Romney’s fund-raising.

During the last campaign, Romney started raising money in January 2007 and he took in $20.8 million from contributors and loaned himself $2.3 million in the first three months. By July 2007, he had raised $35 million and loaned himself $8.8 million.

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