Big money: Ted Cruz's early 2016 funding topples Romney
Ted Cruz (CNN)

Newfound donor network helps Cruz double Romney’s haul in first week of 2012 campaign and outstrip his small-donor total from first 11 weeks in only eight days


Ted Cruz is raising money for his presidential campaign at a significantly faster rate than Mitt Romney did four years ago, eclipsing the early total raised by the former Massachusetts governor who went on to win the Republican nomination in 2012.

The conservative Texas senator, who is seeking to unite the Republicans’ Tea Party wing behind his White House run, raised $4.3m during the final days of March – his first full week after declaring as a candidate for president .

Related: Ted Cruz backs unlimited campaign cash: 'Money absolutely can be speech'

Cruz proved particularly popular with small donors, raising more in his first week from contributors giving $200 or less than Romney did in the first 11 weeks of his campaign.

But the rightwing senator also raked in some noteworthy donations from two wealthy Republican donors – a sports owner and a private-equity investor – who are likely to be kingmakers in the forthcoming race for Super Pac money.

Cruz benefited from becoming the first Republican to formally enter the race for the 2016 nomination, an early move which also made him the only candidate required to submit details of first-quarter fundraising to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

A detailed analysis of Cruz’s filing by the Guardian and the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that his opening money tally significantly outstripped Romney’s performance in the eight days after he formed an exploratory committee four years ago. The analysis of Cruz’s filing, which details donations made between between his declaration on 23 March and the first FEC deadline on 31 March, suggests the crowded Republican presidential primary is on course to be both expensive and hard-fought.

Cruz is considered a second-tier candidate, but is proving he can gain financial traction through the combination of a small-contributor support and backing from key billionaires.

Romney’s presidential declaration, in mid-April 2011, marked the first day he started raising money for his second presidential run. Cruz did not announce the formation of an exploratory committee, choosing instead to start raising funds on the day he announced he would be seeking the Republican nomination.

Of the total Cruz raised in his first eight days, $2.2m was elicited from large donors – those giving between $200 and $5,400. By comparison Romney, an establishment candidate who was popular among wealthy business donors, amassed only $725,000 from large donors in his first eight days fundraising for his 2012 campaign.

Cruz also appears to have raised significantly more from small donors, suggesting the conservative senator has early grassroots appeal. Romney’s total take from small donors over the first 11 weeks was just $1.1m. Cruz easily outstripped that tally in just over a week, raising $1.8m in his first eight days.

Even when Romney’s initial haul is measured from the point at which he officially declared he was running for president – 2 June 2011 – he still raised only $1.38m, around a third of the total Cruz has generated from donations in the same eight-day period.

However, Cruz’s comparatively large opening tally may be less an indication of his early success as a candidate than a sign of what is likely to be a highly competitive, well-funded Republican primary race for all the major candidates.

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The Republican primary contest four years ago was long and drawn out, but actually turned out to be a relatively inexpensive race . Romney amassed the bulk of his war chest – which, like that of Barack Obama, amounted to more than $1bn – during the general election, once sums raised by Super Pacs were included in FEC filings.

Both senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio declared their White House bids after the 1 April deadline for first-quarter submissions to the FEC. Their campaigns did leak what, if accurate, would be significant first-day fundraising totals that also signify the Republican nomination contest is on course to be hugely expensive.

Paul claimed to have raised in excess $1m within 24 hours of his campaign launch in his home state, Kentucky, through his website alone. However, the rate of fundraising from Paul, who is competing from a similar donor-base to Cruz, appears to have slowed considerably since then. Nine days after his campaign launch, Paul has raised $2.2m , roughly half the total amassed by Cruz, though that figure cannot be verified as Paul has filed no official reports with the FEC.

Rubio, who announced his presidential campaign in his home state of Florida on Monday, reportedly raised $1.25m online during his first full day as a candidate alone.

Everything’s bigger in Texas – but what about New York?

Despite his apparently impressive fundraising totals, Cruz’s reported fundraising skews to a local base of support, and suggests his campaign has not yet become a broad, national effort.

Of the $2.2m from large donors, a full two-thirds came from individuals in Cruz’s home state of Texas. Just $62,000 came from donors in New York City, where many GOP candidates have historically had success tapping the deep pockets of Wall Street executives and hedge-fund managers.

Even within Texas, the donations are relatively tightly focused, with more than half a million coming from Houston, where Cruz lived and worked before coming to Washington as a senator in 2012.

But Cruz did attract some mega-donors who are considered have giant figures in conservative fundraising circles since the US supreme court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited donations to Super Pacs.

Related: Hillary Clinton signals break with past in Iowa call to end 'uncontrolled money'

They include Robert McNair, owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans franchise, who along with several members of his family made the maximum donation to Cruz’s primary campaign. In each of the past two election cycles, McNair has given more than $3m to conservative Super Pacs, including $2m to the Super Pac that backed Romney in 2012.

Another name lit in neon in the Republican fundraising world that showed up with a maximum donation for Cruz is John W Childs, a billionaire private-equity investor. He has given millions to conservative Super Pacs, including $700,000 to Freedom Partners Action Fund, which is linked to billonaire star donors the Koch brothers.

Childs also gave $1m to Romney’s Super Pac in 2012, as well as $1.7m to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

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