ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Political newcomer Ben Carson raised more than $20 million in the past three months to fuel his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign said Wednesday, a haul of campaign cash that shatters records and sets a new bar for his GOP rivals.
As other campaigns scrambled to bring in final donations before the end of the fundraising period at midnight, Carson's senior team celebrated its massive haul at its suburban Washington campaign headquarters.
Two dozen staffers shared a red, white and blue chocolate cake topped with frosted numbers "$31,000,000" — the total amount the retired neurosurgeon's campaign has raised since he launched his White House bid in May.
"You know, the pundits all said that we would never be able to mount a national campaign for financial reasons, but here we are approaching 600,000 donations," Carson told The Associated Press while campaigning in New Hampshire. "The people have gotten involved, and that's something I think they probably never anticipated."
The day was a culmination of an extraordinary run for Carson, who tapped the wave of anti-establishment sentiment to raise $12 million in September alone, said campaign manager Barry Bennett.
Flush with cash, Bennett said the campaign initiated plans Wednesday to begin reserving television ad space across the South for primary contests scheduled for early March.
"I would guess that we've outraised the Republican National Committee and many of our opponents maybe combined," Bennett said. "There are going to be many more cakes to come in the future."
Carson's fortunes surged even as he faced tough questions in recent weeks for saying he would not support a Muslim president. His position drew condemnation from Republicans and Democrats and he clarified that he wouldn't support a radical Muslim who did not support the Constitution. His campaign raised roughly $700,000 in the 36 hours after he made the comment, Bennett said.
Overall, Carson raised at least $20.2 million for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, he added, noting that receipts were still trickling in.
That's more money than what was raised by the GOP's entire White House field combined over the same period four years ago. Mitt Romney, the establishment favorite in 2012, raised $14.2 million during that time, while the most popular outsider, former pizza chain CEO Herman Cain, brought in $2.8 million.
Bennett estimated the campaign had at least $12 million in the bank as of Wednesday. Overall, the campaign received more than 600,000 donations since launching in May from a total of 353,000 individual donors.
The Carson campaign declined to detail how much money it spent to raise that cash. Those details will be included in its financial report to federal regulators, which is due in two weeks.
But as of June, the Carson campaign was burning through donor money faster than almost anyone else's in the race. He'd spent more than half of the $10.6 million he collected between the beginning of the year and June 30.
In the three-month period beginning April 1, Carson's top five expenses all were fundraising-related — for direct mail, phone calls and online marketing, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.
In a comment aimed at the GOP establishment, Bennett said, "Sooner or later, they'll have to realize there's a new reality or they'll pay the price," and added, "The outsiders are not going away."
Ramer reported from Exeter, New Hampshire. Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Steve Peoples and Holly Ramer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/sppeoples and http://twitter.com/hramer