Raising more Florida money than President Obama and Newt Gingrich combined, Mitt Romney appears to hold a financial advantage heading into the fall election.
The former Republican governor from Massachusetts drummed up $7,829,150 compared with Obama's $5,867,102. Add Gingrich's $1,44,912, and Romney is still the cash king.
The figures, based on Federal Election Commission data available through May 21, show Romney's fundraising machine rolling over Obama in Republican strongholds from Jacksonville to Naples.
In Jacksonville, Romney outraised Obama $865,645 to $250,218. In Naples, the Republican held a $565,283 to $181,453 advantage.
Even in the Democratic enclave of West Palm Beach/Boca Raton, Romney bested Obama. Romney raised a whopping $1,678,167 to Obama's $745,037.
Obama's heaviest donations came in Miami-Dade and Orlando, where he raked in $1,496,618 and $652,974 respectively.
"It's somewhat surprising that Romney is outraising Obama at this point," said University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith.
Then again, it may not be so surprising.
"Romney has been campaigning here just as long [as Obama]," Smith notes. "He laid down a foundation for a successful fundraising effort in 2008. They've both been trolling Florida's deep waters for dollars for years.
"I don't know if Romney has visited any state more than any other where he doesn't have a house," Smith added.
There are a couple of wild cards in the deck. Open Secrets, which compiled the statistics, does not include contributions of less than $200. Nor does it indicate how much Romney expended in Florida's Jan. 31 GOP primary.
"Given the president's success with low-dollar fundraising, the premise that Romney has a [financial] lead may not be borne out by more complete accounting of the fundraising totals," said a liberal activist, who declined to be named.
Roger Stone, a veteran political strategist in Miami, also questioned whether Romney's lead in the money race and the polls will hold up.
"I expect Florida to remain competitive to the end. I think Obama will have no shortage of cash to spend in Florida. I think the state restriction of registration will hurt Obama very, very badly."
Smith notes that new voter registration is flat compared to the 2007-08 cycle as many of the community-based organizations -- including the League of Women Voters and the youth-oriented Rock the Vote -- aren't signing up voters ... yet.
While noting that Obama for America organizers are in full swing registering voters, Smith said, "We're not seeing the surge of new voters that we saw [in 2007-08]. The universe of potential registered voters is not as large."
One big advantage Romney enjoys this year is the advent of super-PACs, which bundle large contributions. This has helped the Republican fatten his bankroll.
William Koch, founder and president of the Oxbow Group, an energy development holding company based in West Palm Beach, contributed $2,064,450 to the Romney campaign.
The Villages, the sprawling retirement community in Central Florida, donated $910,112.
Morgan & Morgan, the personal injury law firm whose attorneys include former Gov. Charlie Crist, donated $551,350 to Obama.
By far the largest cohort of Florida donors -- spreading $14 million across the presidential field -- listed itself as "retired." "Lawyers/law firms" gave $6,038,758 and the real estate industry kicked in $5,387,830.
Damien Filer, political director for the liberal group Progress Florida, said, "Florida voters want a fair shot at the American Dream, but Romney has one set of rules for the super-rich and another set for everyone else.
"No amount of campaign cash will allow him to sell that bill of goods here in Florida," Filer said.
But Nancy McGowan, a Republican activist in Jacksonville, forecast that Romney "will not only out-raise Obama in Florida, but I predict Romney will take the White House and beat Obama by 8 points by the time the independent and Reagan Democrats votes are counted."
Sean Foreman, a political science professor at Barry University in Miami Lakes, said, "It is likely that Romney will be able to keep up the fundraising momentum in Florida.
"Strategists know that Florida is a must-win for Republicans if they want to occupy the White House. Many Republican donors kept their powder dry in the primaries but they are ready to donate now."
"I think it is fair to say that the super-PAC spending helped spur Romney to the Republican nomination. It helped him to win the Florida primary and spurred his showing in places like Iowa, Ohio and Michigan.
"With big Republican donors like the Koch brothers, supporters of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, and people like Sheldon Adelson -- who supported Gingrich in the primaries but recently shifted his support to Romney -- the money will be flowing and the anti-Obama ads will be plentiful this fall."
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.