- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry is expected to win the bulk of the 1,151 delegates at stake in Super Tuesday’s 11 primaries and caucuses, which would free him to begin unifying his party for the general election campaign.

Mr. Kerry is likely to sweep major, delegate-rich states, such as California, New York and Ohio that would virtually wrap up the nomination for the Massachusetts liberal and put his primary battles behind him.

But another tough political struggle lies ahead before he can accept his prize at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on July 29: raising enough money between now and then to match the $100 million-plus that President Bush has on hand to finance a five-month preconvention campaign.

“One of the pitfalls Kerry has to avoid, one of the concerns and risks is that Bush will attempt to dominate public thinking and as the incumbent with a big bank account, he will be able to do that,” said former Democratic National Committee Chairman Steve Grossman.

“Bush’s $100 million is a formidable challenge” for the Kerry campaign, Mr. Grossman said. “To say otherwise would lack credibility. We’ll never be able to raise as much money as they have, but we will be able to have a more level playing field and I think we will do that.”

Campaign-finance analysts say Mr. Kerry — who, like Mr. Bush, opted out of the campaign fund-raising limits for the primaries — should not have much difficulty raising what he needs to be competitive with the president during the next five months.

“It was a very smart move by Kerry to opt out of the spending limits. He has a reasonable expectation of raising tens of millions of dollars from Democrats between now and the convention,” said campaign-finance lawyer Jan Baran.

“I’ve been struck by the fact that all the money raised by all of the Democratic candidates has exceeded all the money raised by the Bush campaign. That tells me there’s a lot of Democratic money for the eventual nominee, which we assume will be Kerry,” Mr. Baran said.

Another early challenge for Mr. Kerry in the post-primary season will be the need to unite the various political camps of his rivals, especially the angry antiwar camp that backed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s failed bid for the nomination, campaign strategists said yesterday.

“The immediate challenge will be to unify the party. Once the party is unified and once he has received the endorsement of all of his rivals and has activated the DNC to help him close the financial gap, the race will be on for the fall,” said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Mr. Kerry and his senior aides quietly have been negotiating with Mr. Dean about the role the Vermonter will play in the campaign. The Kerry campaign has been working on a statement or possible address aimed at uniting Dean supporters around Mr. Kerry’s candidacy, said Democratic campaign officials.

An announcement is expected to be made sometime in mid-March.

The discussions between the two campaigns are centered on finding a way to “move in a direction that meshes Howard Dean’s movement and the Kerry campaign,” Mr. Grossman said.

“I think Dean’s supporters need to hear exactly what Howard Dean suggested they needed to hear on Wisconsin-primary night. They need to hear that with passion and clarity. That’s Kerry’s challenge,” said Mr. Grossman, the former national chairman of the Dean campaign.

In that primary-night speech, Mr. Dean said there was “enormous institutional pressure in Washington against change,” and that his party, as well as the Republican Party, was responsible for it.

Mr. Grossman said Mr. Dean has set a high standard for Mr. Kerry to reach if he is to bring some 700,000 Dean supporters into his campaign. “Kerry is going to have to demonstrate the power and sense of urgency of a progressive message in order to inspire Dean supporters,” he said.

“People have to swallow hard when they lose, but the party is going to be united,” Miss Brazile said. “The Kerry campaign has already begun reaching out to party regulars and party insiders. They are talking to all of the rival campaign staffs.

“And more importantly, they are talking to donors. Once Kerry clinches this nomination, there will be another pot of money to dip into,” she said.

• The four remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls will participate in an hourlong debate at 11 a.m. today. It will air locally on WUSA-TV Channel 9.

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