GWEN IFILL: As we saw a few moments ago, Republican presidential contenders spent the July Fourth holiday on the campaign trail. At least the parades got them out of doors. Lately, most have spent their time feverishly dialing for the dollars that they will need to support their campaigns.
Joining me now with an early look at the widely watched race for campaign cash is NewsHour political editor David Chalian.
So, David, so far, we know that the GOP candidates have raised a total of maybe $40 million. Is that a lot, a little compared to what we have seen before?
DAVID CHALIAN: Right. We haven't seen everyone's totals yet. But we expect it to be right in that range. It's actually less, Gwen, than we saw four years ago.
The race started a little earlier four years ago. At the end of the first fund-raising quarter in 2007, if you look at just the top three Republican candidates then, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, the three of them combined raised more than $50 million.
So I think we're seeing less money being raised here for a couple of reasons. One, the economy just is not at the same place that it was in 2007. The economy is in far worse shape. And so big donors are not separating themselves from their cash quite as easily.
I also think, though -- you and I have talked about this -- we have seen in those public opinion surveys of late that the Republican electorate is not all that enthused about the Republican field. And so, when they get asked time and again, are you satisfied with these Republican candidates, four years ago, we saw a much higher level of satisfaction.
GWEN IFILL: But then, remind me, other than bragging rights, what is -- what is -- how is it -- why is it significant how much money you have at this stage, at this early stage?
DAVID CHALIAN: A few reasons. One, it's just a brute show of strength to say, hey, I have been able to raise the most. Now, that's just an important marker to lay down, but also because putting together a staff, building an organization and an infrastructure, especially in those key early states, but nationally, across the country as well, that takes money. That takes money to build. So you need that.
And then the third component is -- and this -- especially for those that are less-known candidates right now, you want the ability to go up on the air on television to define yourself early before your opponents start defining you. You want -- you want to have that option.
GWEN IFILL: Let's run through as many of these as we can get to. In order of who seems as if they have raised the most money so far, Mitt Romney, who is considered to be the front-runner.
DAVID CHALIAN: He raised, his campaign said, somewhere between $15 million to $20 million. That number -- you're right, big winner, no doubt about that. But that number is a little alarming, I think, for the Romney folks.
First of all, just a couple weeks ago, somebody in their camp anonymously was quoted in the papers as saying they were going to raise $40 million. So, he didn't best expectations. But also he raised more money when he was a lesser-known candidate four years ago. His first competitive fund-raiser quarter four years ago, he raised $23 million. So he's sort of behind his own pace.
I think that's a bit of an alarm for him.
GWEN IFILL: But there's a big gap between what he's raised and the person who so far it looks is number two, and that's Ron Paul, the Texas congressman.
DAVID CHALIAN: Right.
His campaign is saying that they have raised at least $4.5 million. We haven't seen their numbers yet. They haven't put it out. So it will be more than that. Ron Paul, you will remember, he had a lot of fund-raising success, especially online, four years ago.
GWEN IFILL: That's right.
DAVID CHALIAN: I think we will probably see that again this time around, that most of his contributors will be small-dollar donors, and that a lot of it will be coming from online.
GWEN IFILL: Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, number three here.
DAVID CHALIAN: I think he's got the most -- most alarming report here.
He's got $4.2 million that he raised for this quarter. But he's been working it longer than anybody. He announced a little earlier than everyone. He's really been working the donors for these three months. He had a poor debate performance. He didn't perform all that well in that last Iowa poll that -- that came out about potential Iowa caucus-goers.
And this isn't a lot of money that he raised, especially compared to Mitt Romney at $15 million to $20 million. So now he has a lot to prove in August in Iowa with the straw poll. If he can't show some organizational strength there and have a good showing there, I think his candidacy is going to be in serious trouble.
GWEN IFILL: If only to meet expectations.
Now, Jon Huntsman, who hasn't been in the race very long, comes in where in this?
DAVID CHALIAN: Well, he's around the Tim Pawlenty range. He's at $4.1 million. But his campaign notes that about half of that came from his own pocket. He reached into his wealthy coffers and helped his campaign sort of get that seed money going.
GWEN IFILL: Do we see a lot of that, money coming out of people's own pockets?
DAVID CHALIAN: No. In fact, Mitt Romney, who is a very wealthy man, last time around, he donated a ton of his own money to his campaign. He hasn't done any of that this time around.
GWEN IFILL: Now, you talk about someone who has not met expectations, and that's Tim Pawlenty, but then we move on to someone who has exceeded expectations, perhaps because there weren't any, and that's Michele Bachmann.
Do we know whether she's got any money?
DAVID CHALIAN: We don't know. They are not going to release their numbers, they say, until the July 15 deadline to file.
But we do know this. She has $3 million in her congressional campaign account. That can roll over to a presidential campaign. And for her last campaign for Congress, the 2010 campaign, she raised $11 million, Gwen. She is a proven prolific fund-raiser.
GWEN IFILL: One more. Herman Cain, the former pizza CEO, who is -- he's actually raising some money.
DAVID CHALIAN: Without a doubt. I mean, he has got a little bit of a following, $2.5 million for this quarter.
Here's a little note. In 2007, Joe Biden, the current vice president, he raised $2.4 million, less than Herman Cain, in the second quarter...
GWEN IFILL: And for the record, we do not know yet what the president has raised, but we're expecting it to be a big number.
DAVID CHALIAN: A big number, maybe around $60 million.
GWEN IFILL: OK.
David Chalian, thanks so much.
DAVID CHALIAN: Thank you.