- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

President Bush’s re-election campaign raised $49.5 million during the third quarter, more than all Democrats combined, although the campaign fretted yesterday about being outspent.

“It’s very possible that we could get outspent,” Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said. “We are likely to face a very strong barrage of soft money from special-interest groups that are already out there.

“Democrat-affiliated groups have raised $185 million in soft money,” he added. “They’re planning to spend upwards of $350 [million] to $400 million to try to beat this president.”

“Soft money” describes unlimited and largely unregulated contributions given to political parties or party campaign committees.

Although Republican-leaning special-interest groups also are raising soft money, they were about $100 million behind the rival groups at the start of this month.

“There’s a lot more activity that’s historically happened on the left when it comes to those kind of groups than on the right,” Mr. Mehlman said. “So we will have a deficit there that we’ll need to make up for.”

He added: “We need these resources to combat that third-party money.”

Still, the size of Mr. Bush’s haul dwarfs all fund-raising efforts by the 10 Democrats who were running for president during at least part of the third quarter. The president raised more than thrice as much as his closest competitor, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who brought in $15 million.

None of the other Democrats who raised money the entire quarter were able to beat Mr. Bush’s effort on a single day, Sept. 30, when he brought in a record $5.3 million during a swing through the Midwest.

Mr. Bush has raised $83.9 million for the entire year, including $70 million listed as cash on hand. He is roughly halfway to his goal of raising between $150 million and $170 million in the primaries.

More than 262,000 people gave money to the president’s campaign in the third quarter, according to a report that will be submitted today to the Federal Election Commission. Most of them — 145,000 — gave $200 or less.

Donations have poured in from every state and from about 99 percent of the country’s counties — 3,115 out of 3,141.

“The base of support is geographically broad,” Mr. Mehlman said.

He added that the money was raised by “hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the country who are themselves making contributions and who are encouraging friends and neighbors to make contributions.”

Despite raising record sums of cash, the Bush campaign is spending only half as much as it did at this stage of the presidential campaign four years ago, because the president has no opposition in the Republican primaries.

Still, spending has begun to pick up now that the campaign has 130 full-time staff members.

“It’s higher because we’re starting to hire people, to hire a political team, to hire some press people,” Mr. Mehlman said.

He also cited “the cost of fund raising. Obviously we did a lot more mail this time.”

The campaign also is intensifying efforts to raise funds through the Internet, a strategy that has brought in millions for Mr. Dean. The Bush campaign raised $1.4 million this way in the third quarter.

The campaign has raised most of its money through $2,000-a-ticket appearances by top officials like Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Those fund-raisers continue today when Mr. Bush visits California.

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