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Romney surges into lead in Nevada fundraising

Mitt Romney may not be topping the polls in Nevada, but the Republican presidential candidate’s activity here has paid off: He surged ahead in fundraising from Nevadans between July and September and is now the No. 1 candidate in Nevada fundraising overall.

Most candidates’ fundraising here dropped off in the third quarter of the year, which ended Sept. 30. But the former Massachusetts governors’ ramped up. The $230,000 in Nevada donations Romney raised was nearly three times as much as second-place fundraiser Bill Richardson, a Democrat.

Campaign finance reports for the three-month period that began July 1 and ended Sept. 30 were due to the Federal Election Commission on Monday. The "money race" is seen as a metric of candidates’ viability.

Romney has raised $730,000 in Nevada so far, more than any other candidate here. Previously, Republican rival Rudy Giuliani had topped Nevada fundraising. Former New York Mayor Giuliani raised $70,000 in Nevada in the third quarter, thanks in part to a ritzy Las Vegas fundraiser late last month, bringing his Nevada total to $660,000.

Nationally, Romney’s campaign has benefited from his own deep pockets. A millionaire former businessman, Romney has loaned more than $17 million to his campaign.

Perhaps fittingly, among his supporters is Las Vegas resident and former "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" host Robin Leach. He first donated to Romney earlier in the year but recently gave to him again for a total of $2,300, the maximum donation under federal law.

London-born Leach, who has previously given to President Bush and the Republican National Committee, said in an e-mail that he is not a U.S. citizen and thus can’t vote.

"I think it’s good for the country to hear different voices and opinions," he said. "At present time, my support is to ensure that."

It is legal for noncitizens to make political donations if they are legal U.S. residents.

Romney is the only Republican candidate to have staff in Nevada. He added three staffers last week, and the campaign is poised to open an office in Reno.

Other notable Romney donors included former state Sen. Ray Rawson and state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, who had previously given to Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The $80,000 raised by New Mexico Gov. Richardson in the third quarter makes him the second-highest-grossing Democrat in Nevada, after New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. But Clinton raised less in Nevada in the third quarter than Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Richardson’s contributors included former congressional candidate and retired casino executive Tom Gallagher and top criminal defense lawyer Dominic Gentile, neither of whom had previously donated to a presidential candidate.

New donors to Giuliani included Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, their first presidential donations.

Republican Fred Thompson, who entered the race last month after much anticipation, raised nearly $39,000 in Nevada. Both he and McCain were outraised in the third quarter by fellow Republican Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas with a libertarian bent and a grass-roots following.

Paul raised $43,000 in the third quarter, much of it from small donations. It was twice as much as he had previously raised here.

Democrat John Edwards raised just $10,000 in the third quarter, trailing Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

Democratic candidates have poured resources and campaigned frequently in Nevada, but they trail the Republican field in fundraising here.

The Republican candidates have raised $1.8 million in the state, $685,000 more than the Democrats.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2919.

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