McCain Heads South to Expand His Base

Saturday, April 19, 2008


McCain Heads South to Expand His Base

Sen. John McCain will launch a five-day "time for action" tour on Monday, traveling through cities and towns in the South to show that he will reach out to more than just the traditional Republican base.

But the campaign's need for cash dictates that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee will spend just as much time raising money from high rollers while he travels to Alabama, rural Kentucky, Arkansas and New Orleans.

The tour will begin in Selma, Ala., where McCain will drop by a high school and visit a community college. He will travel to Inez, Ky., and visit the hollows of Appalachia. He will tour the 9th Ward in New Orleans, where residents were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. He will also hold a town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio.

The message, said Steve Schmidt, one of McCain's top political advisers, is that there is "no place he is afraid to go, no place forgotten."

Aides said the trip is designed to highlight McCain's refusal to cede the compassion issue to his rivals. A Democratic Party spokeswoman said the party intends to shadow McCain throughout the trip, hoping to point out inconsistencies between his rhetoric and his record.

On Friday, McCain aides said their campaign had raised $15 million in March after an aggressive fundraising push by the candidate. That effort continues next week, as McCain holds three fundraisers in Birmingham, Ala.; one in Toledo, and one each in New Orleans, Little Rock and Oklahoma City.

In the Friday briefing, advisers also outlined an aggressive outreach to large donors that would ask them to donate $70,000 to McCain's presidential effort.

Under the plan, a donor could write a check to a single fund called "the McCain Victory 08 fund." The donation would then be parceled out, with $2,300 going to his primary account, $2,300 to a general election administrative account, $28,500 to the Republican National Committee and the remainder to state party accounts in the key battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico and Colorado.

The legal limit any one person can give in federal political contributions during a two-year period is $108,200 -- up to $42,700 to various candidates and $65,500 to PACs and political parties. This would essentially tap out a donor's political party and PAC contributions, said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign finance watchdog.

Wertheimer said it was always understood that there would still be ways for major donors to participate. "We were trying to put the most corrupting contributions out of business," he said of McCain's efforts to reform campaign finance laws. "From my perspective, $140,000 from a couple is too much money. But that was a fight for another day."

-- Michael D. Shear and Matthew Mosk

© 2008 The Washington Post Company