LIANE HANSEN, Host:
As the presidential primaries approach on this side of the Atlantic, Republican candidates are having a harder time raising money than the Democrats. Some of that has to do with the unpopularity of President Bush and the war in Iraq, but there's also the specter of a prominent non-candidate looking on the sidelines. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: So when actor and former senator Fred Thompson visited with House Republicans last week, he left more than a few of them starry eyed, including Representative Sue Myrick of North Carolina.
SUE MYRICK: A lot of people are seeing in Fred Thompson a leadership and really a way to help galvanize this country and bring people together that we haven't seen in a long time.
OVERBY: At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, John Greer says that Romney, Giuliani and McCain all have problems satisfying the party's conservative base.
JOHN GREER: And that's why Fred Thompson poses such a threat, because there's lots of money out there to be raised.
OVERBY: But there are fundraising questions about all three leading Republicans. Giuliani leads the national polls, but he has the smallest donor base. Campaign manager Mike DuHaime talked about it from his car cell phone. He said Giuliani got a late start.
MIKE DUHAIME: You know, it takes a little while to build that donor base. That 30,000 donors reflects little more than one month's work.
OVERBY: Sheila Krumholz is director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed the presidential fundraising for us. She says that McCain may be poorer than Romney and Giuliani, but his fundraising came on strong at the end of the quarter.
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: Whether it came from his pleas to his base that he really needed them to come out or whether it came because of his refocusing and reenergizing his campaign finance operation, he was right in there with Romney and Giuliani.
OVERBY: Unidentified Man: So in behalf of this team, I'd like to present a check for $6.5 million raised today.
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OVERBY: But those were dollars pledged, not dollars actually raised. Real numbers, according to the Romney campaign, the week following the six-and-a- half million dollar day, they actually raised $2.4 million; the following week, not quite 700,000. Still, here's Romney on the campaign video:
MITT ROMNEY: You know, I've always thought the most important things in my life were family, God and country. But I've learned in the last day that friends go with them at least. I don't think there's ever been a larger amount of money raised. It's an extraordinary vote of confidence on the part of my friends, and I...
OVERBY: Romney's campaign wouldn't comment on its fundraising for this story, but as one GOP campaign veteran points out, people play games with pledges. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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