Where's Mitt's Money?
March 01, 2012
by Jeremy Shulkin
Central Massachusetts has always had a soft spot for Republicans Paul Cellucci and Bill Weld, and between 2002 and 2006, former governor-turned- GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign finance records show he too could claim membership in the Popular Moderate Massachusetts Republicans club.
Between March 2002 and October 2006, while he ran for and held the state's governorship, Romney raked in more than 700 itemized donations worth $103,000 from Worcester residents.
While that was only about 1 percent of his total donations from that time period (he accumulated $10.6 million from people other than himself), Worcester ranked high as a city where he found significant support, behind Boston (1,783 itemized donations), his Massachusetts' hometown of Belmont (934 itemized donations) and Wellesley/Wellesley Hills (862 itemized donations).
Romney also had Worcester's suburbs writing checks for him. Shrewsbury had a strong Romney enclave with 305 donations totaling $55,500; and 137 donations from Holden, 77 donations from Auburn, 65 from West Boylston and 23 from Paxton all added to his war chest in that five year period. (There were no donations from Leicester.)
That good will, however, hasn't extended to his bids for the presidency, with former donors from the area holding back their checks.
During his failed presidential run from January 2007 to February 2008, Romney only received 40 donations worth $15,200 from Worcesterites. Shrewsbury dropped to 16 donors for $10,550, Holden and Leicester dwindled to four donors, Auburn dropped to three and West Boylston down to one.
This current cycle, despite a perceived front-runner status through most of the 2012 campaign, Romney has fared even worse in scoring cash from the Worcester area. Between April 2011 and January 2012, only 18 itemized donations have come from Worcester and one from West Boylston. He's yet to see any from Auburn, Holden and Paxton. Shrewsbury has provided more donors this year than in 2007/2008 with 25, but for less money ($6,813) than his last go-around.
And in a year that super PACs - giant pools of campaign cash with little in the way of monetary restrictions - have reigned, no one from the Worcester area has donated to Restore America, the one putting out ads in his favor.
Political analysts and consultants have a number of theories as to why this might be the case. Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Joseph Martin Institute for Law and Society at Stonehill College and a blogger at MassPoliticsProfs.com, calls the trend "interesting" but adds, "One of the big issues could very well be nothing to do with what people feel about Romney."
With national aspirations, which were clear by the end of his governorship, Romney started to look at where the money was. (It's evident from his campaign records that he found it in New York, Utah and California. Emails to the Romney campaign went unanswered.)
"His campaign has not really focused on this area since he left the governor's office," Ubertaccio says. "The numbers would indicate to me that if they have, they haven't worked very hard."
"His strategy really is with the bundlers," says Matt Barron of Western Massachusetts political consulting firm MLB Research Associates. "In a national campaign he's really set his sights on people like [New York Jets owner] Woody Johnson ... people with the gold-plated Rolodexes."
Romney's also not getting help from the MassGOP - not yet anyway. Their bylaws prohibit raising funds for candidates during the primary, though individual committee members can independently solicit money on their own. Bill McCarthy, a Worcester state GOP committee member, says that no one in the area is really doing that for any of the presidential candidates, as they're focusing fundraising on downballot races.
Romney's numbers point to trends that have dogged his presidential campaigns: changes in his political stances and a weak base of support.
Spencer Kimball, president of Springfi eld firm Kimball Political Consulting noted that his January financial reports were low and his campaign has been buoyed by "five or six people in his super PAC."
Others wonder if the tenor of Romney's presidential campaigns have soured Massachusetts' voters.
"There's somewhat of a residual bad taste from the way he beat up on the state in his first run [for president]," says Barron, while "morphing into the right-wing ideologue that he is today."
Ubertaccio agrees that Romney's recent campaigns have changed from his 2002 bid for governor, saying "he ran as a bit of a different candidate."
Kimball, who spent two months of this election cycle as a consultant to the Newt Gingrich campaign, still firmly believes that the lack of money won't threaten Romney's chances of winning the state's primary on March 6, as he's well ahead in the polls.
Still, there's reason why Romney shouldn't rest on what's considered his home turf, especially because this election cycle the Massachusetts primary offers proportional delegation, where Republicans can divvy up the state's 12 delegates based on what percent of the votes the candidates receive, rather than winner-take-all. It's this wrinkle that has Kimball predicting other campaigns will try and make some inroads with negative advertisements in the week leading up to Super Tuesday, even if they've ceded the state to Romney.
Ubertaccio offers other scenarios as to why Romney hasn't pulled in as much Worcester-area cash as he used to. For one, the economy hasn't been the same as it was between 2002 and 2008 (though Barron disputes this as a factor) but the Stonehill professor also wonders if local donors have instead shifted their money over to U.S. Senator Scott Brown, who's in the middle of a tight race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
Of course, this could all just be part of a recurring trend for the state.
"When people come here they don't come for electoral votes, they come to raise money," says Barron. "[But] it's not really been the case for Republicans."
And as he points out, with Romney's other "home states" like Michigan, Utah and California, Worcester's cash probably doesn't demand much attention.
WHO'S PULLING IN WORCESTER'S CASH?
Despite Romney's lack of cash from Worcester and the surrounding towns, he's still performing better than his Republican peers when it comes to campaign donations for president, but the real fundraiser from the area is U.S. Senator Scott
Mitt Romney: $12,268 From Shrewsbury, West Boylston and Worcester
Michelle Bachmann: $0
Herman Cain: $105 From Shrewsbury
Newt Gingrich: $1,600 From Shrewsbury and Worcester
Jon Huntsman: $1,300 From Holden and Worcester
Ron Paul: $5,219.73 From Shrewsbury and Worcester
Rick Perry: $0 $75 refunded to Shrewsbury
Charles "Buddy" Roemer: $155 From Worcester
Barack Obama: $28,651 From Auburn, Holden, Leicester, Shrewsbury, West Boylston, Worcester
Scott Brown: $105,527* From Holden, Leicester, Paxton, West Boylston, Shrewsbury, Worcester
Elizabeth Warren: $12,032** From Holden, Shrewsbury, Worcester
*From January 2011 to December 2011
**From October 2011 to December 2011
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