* Only Perry to top Romney in cash race this quarter
* Obama campaign pulled in $43 million
By Patricia Zengerle and Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Mitt Romney raised more than $14 million for his presidential campaign in the third quarter, signaling the Republican front-runner’s fund-raising remains healthy despite big swings in opinion polls.
Texas governor Rick Perry, who hauled in $17 million in the same period, is likely his only rival to top that figure. It was Perry’s first reporting period after a late entry into the race.
The Republican race to take on Obama has had wild swings, though Romney has stayed near the top throughout. Perry’s entry caused a splash before a series of missteps, while pizza executive Herman Cain is leading some polls now.
Still, Romney has taken the mantle of front-runner in many ways in recent weeks, solidifying support from a broad array of the Republican establishment and big time donors.
Romney’s campaign on Friday also said the campaign had $14 million in cash on hand, with 83 percent of the donations in increments of $250 or less.
Expectations had been that Romney and most other candidates in the 2012 election would pull in less cash than in the three months ended in June, when Romney took in $18 million.
The third fund-raising quarter is typically weak, largely due to the summer vacation season.
President Barack Obama’s campaign reported raising $70 million in the third quarter, including funds raised for the Democratic National Committee.
The election is expected to be the priciest ever, with Obama expected to raise more than his record-breaking $750 million from 2008.
After Supreme Court and other legal decisions loosening campaign finance rules, proliferation of outside spending groups with no contribution limits will add hundreds of millions of dollars in new cash.
“Past a certain threshold, money is not going to be as decisive this time,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Cain does not have a large fundraising operation and raised only $2 million in the second quarter, but he could see a bump after a surprise win in a Florida straw poll and his advancement in national polls.