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Bush Starts February With $104M in Bank

SHARON THEIMERFebruary 21, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In the shadows of the Democratic primaries, President Bush spent $7.5 million of his campaign fortune last month preparing ads, making direct mail appeals and laying other groundwork for a battle with the eventual nominee, records showed Friday.

Though Bush has already reached his $150 million fund-raising goal, his campaign made a new appeal to add to his record total in hopes of avoiding another close election like 2000 and the cliffhanger in Florida.

``In the closest presidential election in modern history, 24,731 people in a nation of 280 million make the difference for 59 electoral votes,″ the campaign wrote in its Internet appeal this week. ``Will you be one of the people who makes a difference this time?″

Meanwhile, Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards are locked in a tight race for fresh money to fuel their campaigning with an eye on the March 2 primaries.

Kerry hopes to add $2 million before those contests on top of the more than $7 million he raised since the start of the year. Meanwhile, Edwards picked up $700,000 in one day in fresh money via the Internet and two New Jersey fund-raisers after his close second-place finish in Wisconsin on Tuesday; he has raised at least $4.9 million this year.

``I think all of the campaigns will have to make tough decisions on how they allocate their resources,″ Edwards spokesman Roger Salazar said. ``I think we’re all in the same boat financially.″

Except for Bush, who spent $7.5 million in January during a month his campaign was content to let Democrats do most of the political dueling.

The president’s report to the Federal Election Commission showed his biggest spending related to direct mail: with at least $2.2 million for printing, postage and mailing list rentals.

Bush spent at least $894,860 at ad-making firms, and at least $255,000 on Internet services. Much of his remaining spending went to overhead such as staff salaries and office operating costs.

Bush began February with $104 million in the bank. He raised about $12.9 million last month. So far in February, Bush has raised at least $4.5 million, donations through Feb. 11 listed on his campaign Web site show.

That lifted the campaign to its goal of at least $150 million in contributions, with more fund raising to come. Bush, first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George Bush are all hitting the fund-raising trail this month.

Kerry has been relying largely on the Internet and his fund-raising volunteers to help him amass cash in recent weeks. Kerry plans to hit the fund-raising trail himself again soon and the campaign is putting a schedule together, spokesman Michael Meehan said.

Edwards has blended campaigning in early primary states with fund raising in profitable places such as New York and Los Angeles, and has additional fund-raisers scheduled in both places before March 2. Edwards has spent his money as he takes it in; his campaign ended January with $501,163 in the bank and $382,666 in bills to pay.

Howard Dean, who dropped out of the Democratic race this week, started February with $5 million in the bank but $2.8 million in bills to pay. Thanks in part to faithful Internet donors, Dean raised $6.2 million in January even as his political fortunes fell with losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. That boosted his already-party record fund-raising total to $47.5 million.

Dean and Kerry both opted out of presidential public financing, freeing them from its $45 million spending limit but also depriving them of a government grant each month. Edwards is taking part and expects to be eligible for about $1 million when he gets his next grant March 1.

Edwards’ decision to stay in the race will continue to cost Kerry money.

In 2000, when Bill Bradley hung in through Super Tuesday despite then-Vice President Al Gore’s sweep of the early primaries, Gore was forced to spend about $5 million to $6 million more on TV ads in the Democratic contest than he otherwise would have, according to Chip Smith, the Gore campaign’s chief financial officer.

Several Democratic strategists believe Kerry will see a flood of money if he emerges as the presumptive nominee, but nonetheless would be wise, even while facing Edwards, to save as much as he can for a one-on-one matchup with Bush.

``You don’t want to be spending resources right now on an intramural fight that you really want to be saving for the major league battle down the road,″ said Don Foley, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser.


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