In Iowa, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is hoping a good first impression goes a long way.

Pawlenty out-donated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney $74,000-to-$24,000 in the last three months, according to state election filings released Monday. The Minnesota governor contributed to 38 Iowa Republican candidates through his Freedom First Iowa state political action committee.

The downside: Romney has $129,000 in his Iowa bank account compared to Pawlenty’s $31,000, meaning Romney can make up the difference and more.

But the Iowa donations for Pawlenty and Romney — the 2012 presidential hopefuls with the most robust national operations — show that Pawlenty hopes a jump on donations to winning candidates in Iowa in 2010 could pay dividends when he comes campaigning in the state for 2012.

Other potential 2012 GOP candidates like former Govs. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have not created a state PAC in Iowa like Pawlenty and Romney.

Romney is still raising and spending more than Pawlenty in Iowa: Pawlenty collected $135,000 to Romney’s $218,000. But more of Romney’s in-state expenses are going toward consulting and salary costs, as he spent $24,000 of his $139,000 this quarter on Iowa candidate contributions compared to Pawlenty’s $74,000 of $131,000.

Romney also has a wide lead in national fundraising, raising $7.7 million for his federal PAC to Pawlenty’s $3.1 million, though Romney started fundraising before Pawlenty created his PAC last October.

Pawlenty attracted several high dollar donations in Iowa, including $25,000 from Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, a big GOP donator who was the chief financer of the Swift Boat Veterans group, and another $25,000 from Perry's wife.

State PACs are advantageous because donors who have given the maximum yearly $5,000 contribution on the federal level can turn around and give on the state level, which several of Pawlenty’s Minnesota backers have done.

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