- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Howard Dean shocked his Democratic presidential rivals by reporting $7 million in contributions in the past three months, but big money doesn’t necessarily mean victory at the primaries.

“This is Dean’s moment,” said Donna Brazile, who served as Al Gore’s campaign manager in the last presidential election. “You have to take off your hat. It’s an impressive second quarter across the board. It says that they’re reaching out.”

Miss Brazile said she was “skeptical” of the Dean campaign’s boasts about the power of the Internet, expecting no more than $700,000 total for the year. Yet, Mr. Dean raised $500,000 in online donations on June 30 alone, the last day of the second quarter, and a total of $3 million online so far.

Mr. Dean still trails in the fund-raising race for all of 2003, having banked $9.7 million — slightly less than Rep. Richard A. Gephardt and several million behind Sens. John Edwards and John Kerry. But Mr. Dean made a strong move from the middle to the head of the pack in the April-June quarter.

“He has momentum,” Miss Brazile said. “He’s not relying on third-party endorsements” from organized labor and prominent Democratic politicians.

“He’s riding in a lane no one has driven before. It will take time to see if he can make the journey to the nomination,” Miss Brazile said. “All we know now is that he has the money and is a serious candidate.”

Recent electoral history indicates that big money doesn’t always translate into big primary victories. For proof, one need only look at 1996 Republican primary loser Phil Gramm.

Mr. Gramm, a former Texas senator and darling of fiscal conservatives, rarely failed to brag in stump speeches that he had “the most reliable friend that you can have in American politics, and that is ready money.” He had raised a whopping $25 million in 1995, considerably more, at least early on, than eventual Republican nominee Bob Dole.

Money, it turned out, did not equal votes. Mr. Gramm spent $19 million, yet was routed in the Louisiana caucus by conservative Pat Buchanan. A few days later, he finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses and called it quits before the New Hampshire primary.

Kenneth Warren, author and professor of political science at St. Louis University, said even President Bush’s $37 million leading into the New Hampshire primary in 2000 couldn’t buy victory. That Republican primary was won by the man many compare to Mr. Dean — Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“Money doesn’t mean anything,” Mr. Warren said. “If the candidates are really well known, and all the voters have already made their opinions, money really doesn’t matter.”

And that, Miss Brazile said, is what makes Mr. Dean’s candidacy so interesting. With such a large field of serious contenders — including Mr. Gephardt of Missouri, Mr. Kerry of Massachusetts, Sens Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bob Graham of Florida, and Mr. Edwards of North Carolina — the one-time dark horse has as good a chance as any.

“Dean is going to be the hottest thing going for the next couple of months,” Miss Brazile said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush is hot on the fund-raising trail, dwarfing the efforts of his potential opponents. Mr. Bush has raised $34 million in the last six weeks, $3 million in just one event this week.

Mr. Dean’s perception as being to the left of the more established Washington politicians adds another intriguing wrinkle.

“It may be that all the moderate candidates are canceling each other out,” said Susan Hansen, political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “I think [Dean] is definitely a serious candidate and has real legs, but it’s a strong field. There are a number of people with considerable track records and a strong basis for support.”

Mr. Dean is tapping into Democrats who haven’t usually been excited about presidential politics while the other major candidates are all vying for the support of the traditional Democratic base.

“Since Dean is to the left, it would be difficult to see him going very far,” Mr. Warren said. “People talk about his momentum right now. I’ve heard that so many times, but those type of candidates really don’t go very far.”

Miss Brazile, however, said this time might be different.

“Dean might be maxing out. This may be the tip of the iceberg, or the wave of things to come.”

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