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GOP money flows to Romney, Perry, Paul

WASHINGTON -- Only three of the Republican presidential candidates are worth money -- campaign money, that is.

Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Ron Paul have banked millions. But the others are struggling or broke, putting their candidacies in question four months before the first nominating contests.

Ahead of a critical fundraising deadline Friday, all the contenders are furiously courting donors in Texas, Georgia, Washington and elsewhere. It's a last-minute attempt to pick up cash before they file a three-month summary that will measure their campaigns' financial strength.

"With the support of people like you, we will be able to get America back to work again," Romney wrote to his email list yesterday while he personally pressed donors in New York.

This year, outside groups are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts to back specific candidates. Allies of Romney, Perry and Paul all have formed so-called SuperPACs to help win the nomination.

That money aside, Romney's campaign says he could raise as much as $18 million by Friday, the sum he brought in during the first weeks of his campaign earlier this year. He's likely to come in below that, though he still is expected to lead the field.

Perry donors claim he could hit $10 million, raised since he entered the race early last month. His advisers dispute that, lowering expectations either so the haul looks more impressive when it's announced, or it's an indication the front-runner hasn't seen money accompany the enthusiasm he initially generated.

Paul's campaign asked supporters to celebrate the Texas congressman's Aug. 20 birthday with a donation; they gave him $1.6 million on that day alone. Paul can seemingly turn on the money spigot when he needs to.

The rest of the field lags far, far behind.

Jon Huntsman, who is in the single digits in most opinion polls, recently had to write himself a half-million-dollar check to keep his campaign afloat.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann spent so much money in Iowa to win a statewide test vote that her web videos look more amateurish than professional.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still mired in debt.

Herman Cain has loaned himself hundreds of thousands of dollars so he can keep running.

And Rick Santorum's team acknowledges that the former senator is barely scraping by.

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