- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

President Bush this year has already raised nearly half the amount of money for the Republican Party and candidates he did all of last year, in a role in which the lame-duck leader still excels despite his low job-approval ratings.

Mr. Bush, after a $2 million fundraiser Tuesday night at the Virginia home of a finance director for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, had raised $30.1 million this year for various Republican Party groups and candidates, compared with $66.6 million in 2007, according to numbers provided by the Republican National Committee.

The president may not raise as much during 2007 and 2008 as he has during previous two-year election cycles, but he is on pace to raise a substantial sum.

Mr. Bush is traveling today to Ohio and Pennsylvania to raise money for the state Republican parties.

Mr. Bush’s fundraising pace is notable given that he has a minimal personal stake in this election. He has made no secret of his longing to return home to his Texas ranch after eight years in office, and his vice president is not running to replace him.

Furthermore, Mr. Bush’s approval ratings remain stuck at around 30 percent, though the president doubtless does not want the 2008 election to be viewed as an unfavorable referendum on his time in office.

The president’s unpopularity will limit his role on the stump, but Mr. Bush’s fundraising acumen is still a valuable tool for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee from Arizona.

And Mr. McCain needs all the help he can get.

The McCain campaign is behind both Democratic candidates in fundraising totals. Sen. Barack Obama raised a record-setting $55 million in February alone to Mr. McCain’s $11 million during that month. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, raised $34 million in February.

Mr. Obama had about $32 million on hand for use in the remaining primaries and caucuses, with minimal debt, at the beginning of this month, compared with Mrs. Clinton’s $11 million and $3.7 million in debt.

Mr. McCain reported $8 million on hand and $4.3 million in debts at the end of last month, leaving him about $3.7 million.

“There’s obviously a need for all the money [Mr. Bush] can raise,” said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s senior advisers.

Mr. Bush may stump for Mr. McCain in reliably conservative areas of the country, but the president can be most helpful by raising money while staying under the radar.

In 2001 and 2002, the president raked in $192 million for Republican candidates, according to the RNC. In the two-year run-up to the 2006 midterm elections, Mr. Bush pulled in $194 million.

In 2003 and 2004, Mr. Bush raised $269.6 million for his re-election campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The fundraiser Tuesday night raised cash for the RNC, and was hosted by Fred Malek, Mr. McCain’s national finance co-chairman and former official in the Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

“The RNC plays a huge role, and the president going out and raising money for the RNC is probably the most important thing he can do,” Mr. Black said.

The RNC currently has a huge fundraising lead over the Democratic National Committee, with $25 million to the DNC’s $4.7 million, though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has $38 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $5.1 million.

Mr. Bush joked with Mr. McCain this month, after the senator became the presumptive nominee and came to the White House for lunch, that if he needed to campaign for Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton to help Mr. McCain, he would do it.

“If my showing up and endorsing him helps him, or if I’m against him and it helps him — either way, I want him to win,” Mr. Bush said to reporters in the Rose Garden, with Mr. McCain by his side. “I can help raising money, and if he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I’ll be glad to show up.”

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