WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney raised more than $18 million over the last three months, a total that dwarfed his Republican rivals but lagged his own performance four years ago.
Romney's second-quarter fundraising reinforced the former Massachusetts governor's role as early Republican front-runner. But it also raised questions about voter enthusiasm for the party's current field of White House hopefuls in a weak economy.
The Romney campaign said on Wednesday the $18.25 million came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and represented primary donations, not funds for a prospective general election battle against Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama.
The campaign ended the second quarter with $12.6 million in cash on hand.
"Voters are responding to Mitt Romney's message that President Obama's policies have failed and that we need new leadership in Washington," Spencer Zwick, Romney's campaign finance chief, said in a statement.
"Our fundraising for the second quarter represents the strong support Mitt Romney has across the country," he said.
The sum was at least four times larger than second-quarter fundraising totals for Romney's closest money race rivals, some of whom have only just entered the contest.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty reported raising $4.2 million last week, while Texas congressman Ron Paul's campaign said he collected about $4.5 million.
Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China, formally entered the race on June 21 and has taken in around $4 million, according to aides. But just under half of that is his own money.
Both Romney and Huntsman have large personal fortunes.
Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite and formidable fundraiser, has yet to report her second-quarter takings.
But Romney's fundraising performance was weaker than some had expected and could encourage potential Republican candidates like Texas Governor Rick Perry to enter a race that has been lackluster so far.
Romney's total was in the middle of the campaign's projected $15 million to $20 million range and below expectations of some analyst who believed he would pull in $20 million and $30 million.
Romney, who mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2008, raised more money -- $21 million -- in the second quarter of 2007, according to Federal Election Commission records. For years ago, he was less well known.
By contrast, the Obama campaign's second-quarter goal is to raise $60 million including money from a joint account with the Democratic National Committee.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Eric Walsh)