In 2012, talk of Super PACs and billionaire donors may have convinced average Americans that the Republican primary candidates don't need their money -- but compared to the same time period in the 2008 race, fundraising on the presidential campaign trail is down drastically this time around.

Many, including David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics, believe it's due to a "weak" slate of GOP contenders. He points to the current congressional races as proof. 

"If you look at the congressional elections, compared to four years ago, donations are actually up about 30 percent - and they're up about 50 percent for senate races," Keating says.

Other analysts agree, but add another component. 

Nick Nyhart, President of Public Campaign, believes the flood of big money from a small group of high-dollar donors can be a turn off to everyday people. 

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"It sends a bad message to ordinary voters," Nyhart says, adding, "You begin to feel like politics is a playing field that only millionaires and billionaires are allowed on." 

In tough economic times, Nyhart believes some Americans would rather hold on to their $50 donation than to give it to a wealthy candidate with even wealthier backers.

Though they differ on some of the factors driving the lower-dollar primary season, Keating and Nyhart do agree that once the GOP selects a nominee, donors will open their wallets. 

"We're going to see the most expensive general election we've ever seen," Nyhart says. 

Keating also believes once the GOP nominee goes head-to-head with President Obama, "the checkbooks will come out."