By SERGIO BUSTOS and JACK GILLUM
MIAMI (AP) — Florida's presidential primary is nine months away, but the state's influential donors are already speaking with their wallets. So far the news is better for Jeb Bush than for Marco Rubio in the Republican money race between home-state heavyweights — but it's even better for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Former Gov. Bush's campaign drew nearly $1 million more than Sen. Rubio's — and in two months' less time — according to an Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission records that most presidential candidates filed last week. They cover fundraising activity from April through the end of June, but Bush didn't join the race until June 15.
In all, Florida donors wrote checks totaling more than $8.6 million to the major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, according to the AP review of all donors who listed addresses in Florida and gave more than $200. That represents more than 10 percent of the nationwide total of donations over $200 reported last week by presidential candidates, and offers one window into which candidates have an early advantage in the high-profile swing state.
Clinton –one of 16 candidates included in the analysis– grabbed more than one-third of all Florida cash, about $3 million. Bush's campaign raked in at least $2.6 million; Rubio's collected almost $1.8 million.
The numbers may be dry, but their impact can be large.
Florida is coveted by presidential candidates because of the sheer number of billionaires and millionaires who call it home — or have second and third homes here. The Sunshine State is consistently one of the country's presidential fundraising hubs.
Former Gov. Bush, campaigning last week in Nevada, seemed almost apologetic for bringing in more money than his fellow Floridian.
"It's a big state," Bush said. "I'm sure Marco will get support. I don't view it as a zero sum game."
"Money alone, though, doesn't matter," he said. "You've gotta go campaign hard and that's what I'm doing."
Florida is likely to play an outsized role in both the Republican presidential primary and the general election.
GOP operatives believe that between Bush and Rubio, the loser in the state's March 15 Republican primary will be eliminated from the 2016 election altogether. And the money race suggests that Bush has a clear early edge.
"Marco Rubio is an excellent senator and has a great future in politics, but I'm a longtime friend of Jeb Bush," said Remedios Diaz-Oliver, a Cuban-American businesswoman from Miami and longtime GOP donor. "He's an extraordinary man and was a great Florida governor."
Diaz-Oliver gave Bush the $2,700 maximum donation to his primary campaign.
"What you see is what you get with Jeb Bush," said Diaz-Oliver, who said she first met Bush in the late 1980s when he was the state's secretary of commerce.
But he's not the only Floridian in the race. Herminio Orizondo, a retired doctor, has donated $300 to Rubio and plans to send more.
"Marco Rubio is his own man," said Orizondo, who hosted Rubio at his Orlando home in 2010 when the candidate was a longshot U.S. Senate contender.
"I was told I was wasting my time supporting Rubio," Orizondo said. "I kept telling them that Republicans need new blood in the party and that Marco represents the future of our country."
The FEC reports filed last week tell only part of the story.
They don't account for hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into separate super political action committees not directly controlled by the candidates.
Donors can give a maximum of $2,700 to each candidate's primary campaign, but they face no limits when it comes to writing checks for the super PACs specially tailored to boost candidates' election chances.
Bush's allied super PAC, Right to Rise, has said it raised $103 million through the first half of the year. Like many other super PACs, the group must file its initial fundraising report by the end of the month. Outside groups dedicated to Rubio's bid, meanwhile, reported raising around $29 million.
As for individual Florida donors in the April-June period, other Republicans they contributed to included former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, $11,775; businessman Donald Trump, $8,150 and former New York Gov. George Pataki, $4,050.
Among Democrats, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders got $113,357 and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, $80,850.
Gillum reported from Washington. AP writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington and Michelle C. Rindels in Carson City, Nevada, contributed.
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