WASHINGTON — Republicans are huddling with big campaign finance donors earlier than usual in the presidential election cycle to take on President Barack Obama's fundraising juggernaut in the 2012 race.
The Republican National Committee has already set up a national finance committee of at least 75 heavy-hitting fundraisers to challenge Obama, a move that normally takes place once a nominee is selected.
The move is significant because donors can give nearly $31,000 to the RNC per year, while they can only give $2,500 each to a candidate's primary and general election.
"You can see which one is going to have the biggest impact," said Ron Weiser, the RNC's national finance chair and former top fundraiser to former President George W. Bush.
Obama and the Democrats are ahead in the money race. They raised $86 million in the second quarter alone, with $39 million coming from the Democratic National Committee and $47 million from his official campaign.
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney raised just over $18 million, and Romney does not yet have the advantage of having a national committee behind him.
The RNC boasts that it has raised more from major donors in the first half of this year than the committee did in all of 2009 and 2010.
In the first half of 2011, the RNC raised about $7 million from donors giving more than $15,000, according to the committee.
Fundraising suffered under the RNC's controversial former chief Michael Steele, who insiders said did not devote sufficient time to the effort. The party dumped Steele in January.
Obama began raising money earlier this year and has held at least 31 fundraisers. Weiser said that fact, and the wide open Republican field led the RNC to start huddling its big donors early.
"It became imperative for us to have a network of people that we're going to need to stay within shouting distance of the president," Weiser said. (
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