Bush Campaign: $84M And Counting

George W. Bush, American President, Fundraising, Money, Financing
A day before the filing deadline, the Bush-Cheney campaign reported raising a whopping $49.5 million during the three months that ended September 30 – an amount that far exceeds what any of the president's potential Democratic rivals have raised.

The Bush campaign's total to date is over $83.9 million, and $70 million of that is listed as cash on hand.

The campaign's goal is to raise $150 million to $170 million for the 2004 primaries, in which Mr. Bush faces no Republican challenger, while nine candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination.

Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had a new round of fund-raising events scheduled this week, including two in California.

Mr. Bush is spending money at about half the rate he did in 2000, when he faced competition in the primaries, and currently has about 130 full-time staff members.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman declined to say whether the president would stop holding fund-raisers if he gets to $170 million, but added that the campaign thinks it will need every dollar it gets.

"I think we are likely to face a very strong barrage of soft money from special-interest groups that are already out there" on the Democratic side, Mehlman said.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been trying to figure out how to help whoever emerges as their presumptive nominee to survive throughout next summer, when that candidate may well be short on cash as Mr. Bush has most of his money left to spend.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has urged his party's hopefuls to seriously consider skipping public financing so the presumptive nominee could keep raising money after the primaries, before the general election fund-raising period starts. The DNC also is trying to raise about $16 million to spend on the nominee-to-be's behalf.

Much of Mr. Bush's money has come from $2,000-per-ticket fund-raisers. He has raised about $2.4 million on the Internet, far less than the Democratic money leader, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Fueled largely by online contributions, Dean raised about $15 million in the third fund-raising quarter that ended Sept. 30. Dean is considering following Mr. Bush's lead and opting out of public financing for the primaries and the $45 million spending limit he would face if he took it.

Mehlman said the Bush campaign is moving aggressively on the Internet to sign up grass-roots activists, and has more than 6 million so far.

The campaign's average contribution is about $280, Mehlman said.

The presidential candidates will detail their third-quarter spending and fund raising in reports to the Federal Election Commission due Wednesday night.