In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party's front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.
The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That's far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.
The move reflects a general clamor within the party to begin amassing the funds needed to compete with Mr. Obama's fundraising operation, Romney and RNC advisers said. "Our donors are ready to mobilize for November," said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson. For the Republican nominee to be able to compete with the president's re-election effort, "they need to get started now."
Acknowledging that the nomination fight isn't over, the RNC also invited other candidates to participate in joint fundraising, but with little expectation they would agree, RNC officials said. A spokesman for Newt Gingrich said he didn't plan to work alongside the RNC. Rick Santorum's campaign said they had no plans to join forces, but "would be happy to raise money with the RNC." Ron Paul's campaign declined comment. It makes little sense for challengers scrapping for cash in the primaries to ask donors to give large sums to the party, GOP operatives said.
Eyeing potential wins Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, the Romney campaign also plans to move this week to raising funds for the general election, a step it has delayed for months as all donations have gone to fund Mr. Romney's primary campaign.
"We're already a little behind where we should be. The sooner we get at this, the better," said Brian Ballard, one of Mr. Romney's top fundraisers in Florida and a member of his national finance team.