The New York Times appears willing to damn Romney for being rich and both using his own money for his presidential campaign and not using his own money for his presidential campaign. In seeking to explain Romney's success at fundraising, David Kirkpatrick doesn't give Romney much benefit of the doubt in an article headlined, "Romney Used His Wealth to Enlist Richest Donors":
Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire founder of a giant private equity firm, knew he did not need other people’s money to mount a presidential campaign. But as they began planning a campaign more than two years ago, Mr. Romney and his advisers wanted to avoid the fate of two other millionaires, Steve Forbes and Ross Perot, whose self-financed campaigns went down as quixotic indulgences.
“By Mitt or anyone else self-funding, you don’t have a lot of people making investments in you,” said Spencer Zwick, 28, the campaign’s fund-raising director and a close aide whom the candidate sometimes calls his sixth son. “To be credible, you have to show that you have raised resources from around the country.”
Instead of tapping his own money directly, Mr. Romney embarked on an effort to leverage his personal fortune into donations to his Republican primary campaign. ...
Mr. Romney’s financial support is deep but narrow. He amassed $20 million from fewer than 33,000 donors, according to figures disclosed by his campaign. By comparison, Mr. McCain raised $12.5 million from nearly 50,000 donors while Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, raised $25 million from more than 100,000. Their average contributors each gave about $250; Mr. Romney’s gave more than $600.
All of this is true. However, Romney didn't have the advantages of McCain, Obama, or Hillary Clinton in fundraising. McCain has served in the Senate for 20+ years and has made himself one of the GOP's highest-profile politicians. Barack Obama has had the media fawning all over him ever since his eye-opening speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. Hillary Clinton has Bill Clinton and 15 years of dominating headlines.
Romney, by the Times' own admission, had little name recognition at the start of the campaign. Like Steve Forbes and Ross Perot -- and John Kerry -- Romney loaned his campaign a significant amount of money to get started. Unlike Forbes and Perot, he recognized the pitfalls of self-funding a presidential campaign, which eliminates any buildup of loyalty among followers. He organized well and began his campaign by building on his existing political relationships, amassing a prodigious amount of cash in the very first quarter.
Kirkpatrick compares the number of donors unfavorably to Obama and McCain, which is silly. Obama's 100,000 donors speaks well of his ability to connect to the grass roots and makes him a formidable force in the election. Putting that aside, Romney's 33,000 donors compares rather favorably to the 50,000 each for Hillary Clinton and John McCain. With little name recognition, he manages to tap two-thirds as many as the two high-profile politicians on both sides of the primaries. That sounds like a rather significant victory for Romney, not an indictment of his "deep and narrow" draw in the race.
Kirkpatrick also gets a little paranoid about the religion of Romney's donors. One-quarter of those who have contributed the maximum to his federal PAC come from Utah, and half of the top eight donors are Mormon. Why would this surprise anyone? Romney worked wonders for the Salt Lake City Olympics, turning a corrupt, collapsing effort into a success by cleaning out the graft and righting the committee financially. Romney is a Mormon, and Mormons will be likely to support his candidacy.
The entire article makes it look like the Times has begun to fear Romney's success. He has expanded his attraction from a narrow group of supporters to a broad band of donors, reaching to two-thirds of the donor lists of his most media-friendly opponents. That looks like a good start to me, and not a narrow base for a vanity candidate.