Webb Campaign Appears Undaunted by Fundraising Gap

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 15, 2006

RICHMOND, July 14 -- The Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Virginia raised just under a half-million dollars in the two weeks after the June 13 primary but still trails Republican incumbent George Allen in the hunt for campaign cash, according to finance reports released Friday.

The filings with the Federal Election Commission show that James Webb has $424,000 in the bank as he enters what is likely to be a bruising battle against the better-known Allen leading up to the Nov. 7 general election.

Allen, a former governor who has been stockpiling money for a possible presidential bid in 2008, reports having $6.6 million in the bank, even though he spent $1.7 million from May 25 to June 30 on a television advertising campaign and other expenses.

Officials with the Webb campaign, which was broke the day after the primary, dismissed the gap, saying they have just started raising the millions of dollars they plan to spend.

"We are going to have enough money to compete against Allen in every way," said Kristian Denny Todd, a Webb spokeswoman.

Todd said the campaign will bring in more money this summer and fall when high-profile Democrats, including Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former governor Mark R. Warner, hold fundraisers for him.

But Republicans and some Democrats say Webb faces a daunting task of raising enough money to remain competitive with Allen, a prolific fundraiser.

"There is no limit as to how much George Allen can raise, so if it is going to be competitive, Jim Webb is going to have to beat him in shoe leather rather than campaign financing," said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D).

Moran said he thinks Webb can win by raising as little as $5 million to $6 million because he may not need to spend a lot of money in the expensive Washington media market that covers Northern Virginia, where Democrats often perform well. "Those folks don't need a whole lot of persuasion as to how to bring about change in the Senate," Moran said.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), an Allen supporter, is more skeptical of Webb's chances. He predicted Webb will be swamped by Allen's paid media strategy and his one-on-one campaign skills.

"George is going to be able to bury anyone on message," Davis said. "To beat that, you have to have significant amounts of cash, $10 [million] to $12 million, easily."

Records show that Allen is spending money at a healthy pace. Of the funds spent from May 25 to June 30, $1.5 million went for the statewide television campaign, which sought to emphasize his successes as governor on parole, welfare and school issues and as a senator in promoting technology and lower taxes.

The Federal Election Commission filings released Friday cover the period from April 1 to June 30, during which Allen raised about $1.8 million and spent about $2.4 million.

Webb, a Vietnam veteran who was an early critic of the Iraq war, has raised about $887,000 since April 1. But Webb had to spend much of it in his primary fight against former lobbyist Harris Miller, who spent $1 million of his own money on the race.

Webb, a former Republican with roots in southwestern Virginia, is counting on support from national Democratic leaders who want to back him because he is a nontraditional Democratic candidate who may help the party better connect with rural voters. Webb is also relying on a nationwide following of liberal bloggers who helped lure him into the race and have been raising money for him on the Internet in hopes of helping the Democrats reclaim the Senate.

In the race for control of the House of Representatives, Democrats are hoping to build on their party's recent gains in the northern part of Virginia by unseating -- or at least strongly challenging -- two longtime Republican incumbents, Davis and Rep. Frank R. Wolf.

According to FEC filings, Davis has more than $2 million in the bank for his race against lawyer Andrew Hurst. Hurst, who is trying to replenish his campaign account after spending $175,000 to win last month's Democratic primary, said he has about $50,000 in the bank.

In the 10th District, Wolf has only a slim cash advantage over his Democratic opponent, Judy Feder, a professor at Georgetown University. Wolf has $636,00, compared with Feder's $461,000. But Feder, a political newcomer, has raised more than Wolf, a 26-year incumbent, since April 1.

Woody Patrick, a Wolf spokesman, said the congressman is taking Feder's challenge seriously but is confident he will retain his seat in a district that has been favorable to Republicans.

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