Pawlenty Snags Swiftboat Funder and Other Top Donors

| Fri May 13, 2011 11:30 AM EDT

Tim Pawlenty may be boring. He may be the best second-best Republican presidential contender out there. But damn if he ain't flush, reports The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Pawlenty's backers include Bob Perry, the Texas home builder who gave more money than any GOP donor to conservative groups like American Crossroads, which spent heavily in the 2010 election, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which was active in the 2004 campaign. In 2008, Mr. Perry supported Mr. Romney.

Ray Washburne, a Texas real-estate developer and restaurateur who raised money for former President George W. Bush, is backing Mr. Pawlenty because "he's got a great story to tell."

The Pawlenty campaign held its biggest fund-raiser to date in Dallas on on Tuesday at the home of Tom Hicks, the private-equity and sports investor, who once owned the Texas Rangers baseball team. Co-hosts included heirs to the H.L. Hunt oil fortune, Dean Foods Chief Executive Gregg Engles, billionaire buyout investor Harold Simmons and Excel Communications founder Kenny Troutt.

Bill Strong, the Morgan Stanley executive who leads Mr. Pawlenty's fund-raising efforts, was slated to host an event in Chicago on Thursday that was expected to haul in more money than the Dallas event. The campaign expects to raise $800,000 at the Dallas and Chicago events combined, according to someone familiar with Mr. Pawlenty's fund-raising.

This is good news for Pawlenty, who's still contending with yawning enthusiasm and recognition gaps among Republican voters. Even better news? A number of the Pawlenty's early donors—including Perry, Engles, Simmons, Strong—contributed to Mitt Romney's campaign in 2008. That's not to say they're committed to Pawlenty for the long haul, but it certainly must be encouraging for T-Paw's camp.

The bad news? Romney spent more than any other GOP primary candidate in 2008, and appears to be well on his way to matching that pace in 2012 (RomneyCare problems, notwithstanding): at fundraisers this week, his fundraisers snagged $1 million in contributions, the Journal reports. Even if he loses a few donors to Pawlenty, chances are he'll be able to make up for it.

With Haley Barbour sitting out the 2012 race and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels still undecided, the bundlers are still there for the taking. So despite his recent good fortune, Pawlenty's got to keep bringing in the bacon.