Washington (CNN) - Officials within Mitt Romney's campaign are taking the first steps toward raising funds for a general election campaign - one signal they hope to be entering a new phase of the campaign where they can spend more time and resources preparing for an expected costly November election.
The Romney campaign is reaching out to its donors and some of them are participating in conference calls this week discussing a general election fundraising effort, a Republican official familiar with the outreach confirmed to CNN. The official refused to speak for attribution because such fundraising initiatives are supposed to remain private.
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While knowing they still have to battle Rick Santorum in the nomination contest, they also know they need to lay the groundwork for what most believe will be a Romney-Obama general election.
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee have raised almost $300 million so far this cycle. Team Obama has about $85 million cash on hand, according to its most recent Federal Election Commission filing.
The launch of a separate Romney fundraising effort in conjunction with the Republican National Committee is also a sign of the money focus expected during the general election.
"We are proud to announce the formation of Romney Victory, which is a joint fundraising committee with Romney for President, the Republican National Committee, and several battleground fund states," Spencer Zwick, the Romney campaign finance chairman, emailed donors Wednesday.
A Romney donor who requested anonymity confirmed the email solicitation first reported by Politico.
The RNC offered to begin a similar program with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, but their campaigns declined.
Because Romney is not the official nominee of the party, the RNC will not hold any joint fundraising events with the candidate.
Donors to the new fund can give up to $75,800, up to $5,000 of which can go to the Romney camp. Individuals may donate $2,500 each for the primary and general election if they have not already made those contributions, as well as $30,800 to the RNC and $40,000 to state parties.
Romney so far has focused his attention on raising funds for his primary contest. Through the end of February his campaign brought in $73,926,164 and had $7.68 million cash on hand.
The Romney campaign would not discuss details of the new general election efforts, but spokesperson Andrea Saul did say, "Our donors are ready to mobilize for November and understand that, for the Republican nominee to be able to compete with the $1 billion Obama machine, they need to get started now. We are confident Gov. Romney will be that nominee."
Since it is unclear how long the GOP nomination battle will continue, the Romney camp will probably have to rely somewhat on the super PAC supporting its efforts, Restore Our Future, to help fund ads in the upcoming primary states. While the PAC will not disclose its strategy for the next contests on April 24th, including in the key primary state of Pennsylvania, it has not made major buys in those states so far.
However, it has purchased $500,000 for cable ads in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. The group, which has raised $43 million so far this election cycle, has more than $10 million cash on hand.