Candidates' cash crunch plays into Romney's hands

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The Independent US

The darkening US economy may have emerged as the most pressing issue for voters in the final days before Florida's crucial Republican primary but, for candidates, it is the threat of recession in their own campaign coffers that is seizing their attention – unless, of course, their name is Mitt Romney.

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, earlier this week, found themselves dashing back to New York for fundraising events as they struggled to keep up with the immense costs of campaigning in Florida and face the even more daunting challenge of competing in more than 20 state primaries on 5 February. Mr Giuliani, meanwhile, acknowledged that most of his top staffers are now working without pay.

The cash crunch is proving most debilitating for Mike Huckabee, however, who has seen donor enthusiasm ebb as his win in the Iowa caucuses fades into the distant past. He has jettisoned his travelling press entourage and his 50-seat jet and has summoned only enough money to run one TV ad in Florida. It will run on cable stations, not on broadcast networks.

Resentment, meanwhile, is growing that Mr Romney, whose huge personal fortune was made from a career founding the Staples stationery chain, is now enjoying an unfair advantage because of the power of persuasion-by-television.

Challenged during a televised debate on Thursday, Mr Romney bridled at suggestions he was "buying Florida" and refused to disclose how much of his personal money he is ploughing into an aggressive television advertising blitz. Press reports this week suggested he expects to spend $40m (£20m) of his own money seeking his party's presidential nomination.

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