WASHINGTON (AP) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry raised more than $17 million in his first seven weeks running for president, his campaign announced Wednesday, an impressive total that helps cement his status as the top alternative to Mitt Romney and counter the perception that his campaign his struggling.
Perry has raised more than $17 million since August 13, and has $15 million in cash on hand.
Perry immediately rose to the top of national polls after he announced his run, but his debate performances have been shaky and he's dropped back in recent surveys. His money haul shows his struggles aren't yet affecting his fundraising - though that won't become clear until the full fundraising reports are filed on Oct. 15.
Almost all of the money is for use in the GOP primary election. About $50,000 was raised for a general election fund in case Perry wins the GOP nomination.
Perry's reports will show that almost half of his money comes from donors who live in Texas. About 51 percent is from people who live somewhere else in the country, his campaign said.
Romney, Perry's chief rival for the Republican nod, brought in $18 million during his first three-month fundraising period, and is expected to come in below that for the fundraising quarter that ended Sept. 30.
Despite Perry's strong number, Romney still has a big head start. He's been raising money for longer, likely has more cash in the bank and has a national fundraising network that he's been building since he first ran for president in 2008.
Other presidential contenders are expected to raise far less than both Perry and Romney. Rep. Ron Paul is likely to raise millions because of his online fundraising apparatus, and businessman Herman Cain has shown strong grassroots support in recent weeks. But the others - including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum - will likely lag far behind