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Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks about energy and environmental regulations at the United States Steel Mon Valley Works Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, Pa., Friday, Oct. 14, 2011

Keith Srakocic, Associated Press - Ap

Pawlenty donors flock to Perry

  • Article by: JEREMY HERB
  • Star Tribune
  • October 18, 2011 - 6:46 AM

WASHINGTON - Tim Pawlenty is stumping for Mitt Romney, but his former donors have been flocking to Rick Perry since the Minnesota governor dropped his presidential bid.

A Star Tribune analysis of campaign finance data shows that Pawlenty's contributors gave cash to Perry rather than Romney by a 2-1 margin after Pawlenty exited the race on Aug. 14. Perry received $217,200 from Pawlenty's donors since then, while Romney collected $108,600, according to campaign finance reports filed last week.

"There are limits to an endorsement," said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. "Just because [Pawlenty] chose to back one candidate doesn't mean all of his followers would move in lockstep."

For Marjorie Bernard, the decision to switch from Pawlenty to Perry was personal. "I know Pawlenty wasn't a conservative, but he came across to me as being an honest person," said 63-year-old Bernard, of Oyster Bay, N.Y. She and her husband gave $500 to Pawlenty and then another $500 to Perry.

She said she was "very surprised" that Pawlenty went for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor, she said, "comes across as being a little too slick."

Bernard, who also likes businessman Herman Cain, said she would vote for Romney if he becomes the nominee, "but I would really hope that one of the other candidates gets the nomination."

Pawlenty's campaign strategy was to become the GOP's alternative to Romney, but he was not able to catch fire with activists. A month after Pawlenty dropped out, he endorsed Romney.

Pawlenty's former staffers have found gigs with both Perry and Romney. Perry has picked off some of Pawlenty's staff in the early primary states, while former Sen. Norm Coleman and former Rep. Vin Weber -- two high-profile Minnesotans from the Pawlenty campaign -- are now with Romney.

Brian McClung, a Pawlenty adviser, said the former Minnesota governor expects more of his donors will join him in supporting Romney.

"Governor Pawlenty is hosting a fundraiser for Governor Romney in Minnesota in November. He and his supporters are also raising money for Governor Romney in other parts of the country. These numbers will change soon," McClung said.

In fact, Perry had no Minnesota donors who also gave to Pawlenty, and Perry collected less than $10,000 from the state in total, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show. Romney had $2,400 from Minnesota Pawlenty donors and Bachmann raised $13,376 -- $10,000 of which came from Twin Cities broadcast executive Stanley Hubbard and his wife, Karen.

Much of Perry's support stems from Texas, where the governor collected $87,000 from former Pawlenty backers, according to FEC records. Perry also topped Romney among Pawlenty supporters in California, New York and Florida, three donor-rich states.

Hedging their bets

Some donors did not discriminate -- 21 people gave to all three candidates. Overall, Pawlenty donors gave him about the same amount they then gave to Perry or Romney.

"Some of them were looking for somebody other than Romney, and some were just hedging their bets," said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "They just got behind the flavor of the month."

Chris Scaife of Talladega, Ala., was a fan of Pawlenty's, but he grew up in Texas and was more than happy to throw his support to Perry. Scaife, 49, gave $250 each to Pawlenty and Perry.

Romney "doesn't do a whole lot for me at this point," said Scaife.

Former Minnesotan Marilyn Smyk was eager to get behind Pawlenty. Smyk, who now lives in Stratham, N.H., liked Pawlenty's "subtle sense of humor and his grasp of how to treat New Hampshire voters." She followed Pawlenty to Romney, and gave him a $500 check. "Romney is good and his wife is a fantastic asset," Smyk, 80, said. "She'd make a great first lady, and he'd make a great president."

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who essentially knocked Pawlenty out of the race, was mostly an afterthought for Pawlenty's backers, as Pawlenty's fellow Minnesotan received just $22,000 from his contributors.

Smyk said Bachmann, though a Minnesotan, just does not do it for her.

"If I wanted to just stay with the Minnesota bit I would have gone with Bachmann," she said, "but I'm not quite with her."

Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723 Twitter: @StribHerb

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