- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Democratic presidential candidates are racing around the country this month in a furious, fast-paced fund-raising drive to bankroll their bids to challenge President Bush in 2004.
They are also accelerating their campaign activity in the first two states that hold nominating contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, which have been the springboard for successful presidential candidates in the past.
Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina have been making frequent trips into cash-rich California, making their political pitches to party donors in the film industry and other big-business tycoons in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Earlier this month, Mr. Edwards, emphasizing his Southern credentials, held big fund-raising events in Nashville, Tenn., as well as Atlanta and New Orleans.
Among the six candidates now in the race, several have a head start because of sizable cash surpluses from their congressional elections.
Former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri has shifted $2.5 million from his congressional fund to his presidential campaign.
Mr. Kerry has $2.5 million left over from his 2002 re-election campaign.
Mr. Gephardt, who is making his second bid for the presidency, is promoting his close ties to organized labor in a series of fund-raising trips to Las Vegas, Denver, New York, Boston, Chicago, Florida, Texas and California.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who made political history in 2000 by becoming the first Jewish vice-presidential nominee, has been mining his support among Jewish contributors. Mr. Edwards, who made millions as a lawyer who specialized in liability lawsuits, is being heavily financed by trial lawyers.
Mr. Edwards has used his campaign money in unusual ways to build support in key states. In Iowa, for example, he loaned 123 computers to county candidates in last year's campaign and printed 800,000 pieces of campaign literature for local candidates.
Former Gov. Howard Dean, who has pulled in less than $1 million thus far, and New York civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton have raised the least in the pack.
The amount of money needed to run for president is daunting. Before Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle dropped out of the race earlier this month, his strategists told him that he would need to raise $1 million a month for the rest of the year to be competitive in the primaries.
Mr. Bush was able to raise nearly $70 million as a sitting governor when he ran for president in 2000 under a legal limit of $1,000 per donor.
Campaign-finance consultants say that as president he will be able to double that amount and possibly triple it, since last year's campaign-finance reform law raised the limit to $2,000.
Meantime, the Democratic contenders are stepping up their visits to Iowa and New Hampshire as if the caucus and primary contests there were a few months from now, rather than a year away.
"The race has really been in full swing for about a year now," said Mark Dale, spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party. "This Saturday, Gephardt, Kerry and Dean are attending a Linn County fund-raiser, and the event is sold out."
"There is no front-runner here," Mr. Dale said, but surveys and other Democrats say that Mr. Gephardt, who won the Iowa caucuses in his 1988 presidential campaign, is the clear favorite.
South Carolina Chairman Dick Harpootlian said, "Gephardt was here last Friday and he, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Kerry have all indicated that they are coming into the state again soon."
Mr. Kerry, the acknowledged front-runner in New Hampshire, this weekend will hold a fund-raising ski race there.
"They are all coming up here in the coming days and weeks. Dean and Gephardt will be here on Jan. 25. Mr. Sharpton will be here Friday. Mr. Kerry is here this weekend for a charitable fund-raising ski race in Waterville," said New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Kathleen Sullivan.


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