McCain Fund-raisers, Stung By 1st Quarter, Pick Up The Pace

Stung by its third-place finish in the race for campaign cash in the first quarter of the year, Senator John McCain's presidential campaign is pulling out all stops "to achieve better fund-raising," a top aide says.

High-powered lobbyist Thomas Loeffler, a former Bush Super Ranger and now a key McCain fund-raiser, recently met with about a dozen other national finance chairmen to lay out a new strategy and more accountability that they believe will ensure better results.

Fund-raising goals were discussed for the chairmen and others involved in the effort, the aide said. McCain raised a disappointing $12.5 million in the first quarter, putting him behind his key rivals for the Republican nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

McCain's other national finance co-chairs include Wayne Berman, an influential Washington lobbyist; A. Jerrold Perenchio, an investor and one-time media mogul; Lewis Eisenberg, a former Goldman Sachs partner; and John Thain, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.

Despite all the bad news of late, aides saw one bright sign: a temporary "spike" in online fund-raising after McCain's speech defending the Iraq war at Virginia Military Institute earlier this month. McCain is scheduled to formally announce his candidacy Wednesday in New Hampshire.

By Edward T. Pound