- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

PITTSBURGH — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry raised more than $150 million this year and an additional $30 million last year in his race for the White House, nearly negating what Republicans had expected to be a giant fund-raising advantage.

Mr. Bush’s campaign didn’t release its figures yesterday, although he has raised more than $200 million.

But combined with millions of dollars of anti-Bush advertising by interest groups formed under a provision of tax law that lets them advertise against federal candidates, Mr. Kerry has been competitive with the president’s campaign.

Mary Beth Cahill, Mr. Kerry’s campaign manager, said $100 million of the campaign’s total has come from responses to direct mail, telephone and Internet appeals.

“The strength of the small donor has helped level the financial playing field with the Bush campaign,” she said.

Mr. Kerry was not campaigning yesterday, instead spending the day at his wife’s home outside Pittsburgh before flying to Washington last night.

Today, he begins a July Fourth weekend bus tour through the Midwest to campaign to rural voters.

“We know we have to compete for rural votes, and we are going to compete,” said John Norris, an adviser to the campaign.

Yesterday, the Kerry team held a telephone press conference to accuse Mr. Bush of failing to help rural communities.

The campaign has posted on its Web site, www.JohnKerry.com., a state-by-state assessment of the effects of Bush administration cuts to agriculture, education and environmental programs.

David “Mudcat” Saunders, a strategist who helped craft Mark Warner’s rural strategy in the 2001 Virginia governor’s race, said Mr. Kerry can succeed in a rural strategy, but he will have to show that he can relate.

“John Kerry has the type of personality that I think would sell very well in rural America,” Mr. Saunders said. “He’s got an elk-hunting camp in Idaho — Bubba don’t know that. Bubba doesn’t know he carries a side-by-side double-barrel shotgun. Bubba doesn’t know he plays a mean guitar.

“There’s so much about John Kerry that Bubba doesn’t know because John Kerry hasn’t attempted to get through the culture. And he can do that,” Mr. Saunders said. “He goes to Virginia and goes down to the 9th [Congressional] District of Virginia and gets up on stage and plays the guitar with [bluegrass legend] Dr. Ralph Stanley, he can win the 9th District.”

But in a conference call sponsored by the Bush campaign, three congressional Republicans said Mr. Kerry’s record on social issues, farm policy, sportsmen’s concerns and the economy show he is out of touch with rural and farm voters.

Rep. Mark Kennedy, Minnesota Republican, pointed to the issues of abortion and gun rights.

“People in this part of the country value a culture of life. But Kerry apparently values appealing to his left-wing base more. Kerry has voted at least six times against banning partial-birth abortion,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Kerry has poor ratings from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, but Mr. Saunders said Mr. Bush’s environmental policy has been bad for hunters and that Mr. Kerry can appeal to all but the “most hard-core” gun owners on environmental issues.

Mr. Kerry’s rural agenda mimics that of former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and might indicate that Mr. Kerry is setting the stage for choosing him as a running mate.

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that there are signs Mr. Kerry plans to announce a vice-presidential choice next week.

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