WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney's $18.25 million fundraising haul catapults him ahead of the Republican presidential field to date but falls well short of what he collected in the early months of his failed 2008 presidential bid — another sign of a sluggish start to the GOP contest, experts say.

Romney's total amounts to less than half of the more than $43 million he had collected during the first six months of the last presidential campaign, including nearly $9 million of his own money.

Among GOP candidates who have announced their fundraising totals, Texas Rep. Ron Paul is in second place, pulling in more than $4.5 million.