- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

President Bush raised at least $8 million last night for Republican Senate candidates, adding to a fund-raising lead that has left Senate Democrats at a 2-to-1 cash disadvantage heading into the final month before the election.
The Republican reserves about $34 million for the Senate Republican committee and $42 million for the Republican National Committee at the onset of September will let the party pump money into last-minute drives and advertising campaigns in tight races throughout the country that could decide control of Congress.
Though Democrats control the Senate for the first time in three election cycles, party officials acknowledge that they will be forced to make tough choices down the stretch on where to spend money.
"Could they go out and buy a lot more TV ads right in the last 10 days? Sure, they'd probably be able to," Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said in an interview, referring to the Republicans. "But at some point it matters what you're saying. It's the issues and how people feel on Election Day, if they're going to go vote."
Mr. McAuliffe said Democrats in part through some $1 million-plus donations in recent weeks will have enough to get their message to voters.
Both parties have raised record sums for the November elections, and the Republican Party has outpaced the Democrats for years. Still, "it's worse than usual" in 2002, said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor.
"I think the Republicans deserve the credit for perhaps the best fund-raising campaign of any midterm election," Mr. Sabato said.
The gulf has been created by several factors including:
Prolific fund raising by Mr. Bush, his money-raising "pioneers" and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
The Democratic Party's decision to spend millions this year to renovate its headquarters and upgrade its computers and voter files money that could have been spent on the election.
Even with a larger-than-normal gap, Democrats have one powerful Election Day weapon labor unions that spend millions to get voters to the polls.
Steve Rosenthal, political director for the AFL-CIO, praised the federation's get-out-the-vote program as "driven by individual worker-to-worker contact, as opposed to paid mail and robo calls and less personal forms of contact."
Still, Mr. Rosenthal said it is fair to ask how Democrats can expect to narrow the fund-raising gap, particularly after Nov. 5, when a new law will ban the national parties from accepting unlimited union and corporate donations known as "soft money."
"That's a good question for the Democrats. Some of them should have thought about that before they voted for McCain-Feingold," Mr. Rosenthal said, referring to the new law named after Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat. The AFL-CIO is one of several groups suing to try to overturn it on constitutional grounds.

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