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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FL GOP money going slow to McCain



John McCain should be sitting pretty — catching his breath, building his campaign organization and filling up his campaign account — while Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton rip each other to shreds.Except that in the must-win state of Florida, many of the top Republican money-raisers have yet to step up for their presidential nominee.

Consider that of Florida's 66 so-called Pioneers or Rangers who raised at least $100,000 for Bush-Cheney in 2000 or 2004, only nine have contributed to McCain, a St. Petersburg Times analysis finds. While losing election after election throughout February, Clinton raised more than twice as much money from Florida — $1.25-million — as McCain, who drew $489,000. So did Obama, taking in more than $1-million from Florida.

The Times analysis is based on the latest campaign finance reports, which don't include March fundraisers where McCain allies say he raised about $2-million in Naples and southeast Florida. Several top GOP check-raisers in Florida said they have donated to McCain since that February reporting period ended.

In fact, McCain is scheduled to raise money in Jacksonville on Thursday at a luncheon hosted by, among others, insurance executive Tom Petway and developer John Rood, both Rangers who raised at least $200,000 for Bush-Cheney in 2004. Petway had been uncommitted in the presidential primary, while Rood backed Mitt Romney.

Still, even as top money-raisers for Gov. Charlie Crist have started helping McCain, such as St. Petersburg developer Brent Sembler and Palm Beach County businessman Harry Sargeant, the latest campaign finance reports show there was no rush to unite behind the GOP nominee.

Of 60 Floridians identified by the Romney campaign or in news accounts as key fundraisers for the former presidential candidate, only two gave to McCain the month after he won Florida's crucial Jan. 29 primary, according to the Times analysis. Likewise, among 27 Republican Florida fundraisers helping former candidate Rudy Giuliani, only two had given to McCain by the end of February.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:21pm]


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