- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

With the pre-Iowa/New Hampshire money primary rapidly approaching its peak, there appears to be only one Democratic presidential candidate with any financial traction. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who predicted in August that his third-quarter fund-raising total would break the Democratic quarterly record of $10.3 million set in 1995 by Bill Clinton, blew past that level about two weeks ago. Then, while his Democratic opponents were feverishly seeking to raise half of his $10 million goal, Mr. Dean’s campaign increased its third-quarter target by 50 percent, raising it to $15 million. By midnight Sept. 30, the campaign’s coffers had collected more than $14.8 million for the quarter. During Monday night’s event, Mr. Dean conducted a telephone conference call across the nation, so a final tally is forthcoming. Advertised as a “national house call,” Monday’s event linked nearly 1,500 “house parties” where Dean donors gathered to hear “the message” and write the checks.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Kerry’s sputtering campaign told the New York Times that it would likely raise $4.5 million to $5 million for the quarter. Unless that’s an intentional low-ball projection, it would represent a major disappointment for the Boston Brahmin, whose fund-raising prowess set the Democratic pace over the first six months of the year. Sen. Joe Lieberman was expecting to raise about $4 million for the quarter, which would represent a 20 percent decline from the second quarter.

Meeting his $15 million third-quarter goal will bring Mr. Dean’s nine-month take to more than $25 million. He will have reached that level despite the fact that the vast majority of his generally well-heeled financial supporters haven’t even remotely approached the $2,000 limit for individual contributions. Moreover, they are known to become enraged whenever their candidate is attacked by his opponents, as Mr. Dean was during last week’s debate. Their likely response, if the past week has been any indication, will be to log-on, re-enter their credit-card numbers and up their antes. Or, they simply wrote a check at Monday’s “house party.”

All of which makes it all the more likely that the Dean campaign will forgo matching funds. Unlike his Democratic competitors, if his fund-raising continues apace, he won’t need the matching funds, and he won’t have to worry about the spending limits that come with them. That applies not only during the contest for the nomination but, if he is successful, afterward as well. Then, the Democratic nominee will be confronted with President Bush’s war chest brimming with $200 million — or, perhaps, much more.

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