By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
RICHMOND, June 1 -- Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe has amassed far more campaign cash than his rivals, R. Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran, heading into the final frenzied week before next Tuesday's primary.
McAuliffe, a veteran fundraiser with political connections across the country, raised $1.8 million in the two-month period ending Wednesday. His $6.9 million war chest allowed him to start airing TV ads in January and this week expand his TV blitz into the expensive Northern Virginia market.
Moran raised $844,000 during the same period, bringing his total to $4.8 million, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group that tracks Virginia political money. Deeds raised $676,000 and pushed his total above $3.8 million.
McAuliffe's enormous financial edge -- he outspent Moran on television by more than 20 to 1 and Deeds by more than 2 to 1 through Wednesday -- has enabled him to mount a two-pronged assault, with money spent on advertising and on a sophisticated, staff-intensive effort designed to get his voters to the polls. But his prolific fundraising has also prompted his rivals to accuse him of trying to buy the office.
With no primary to fight, Robert F. McDonnell raised more than all three Democrats, reporting that he collected $3.7 million in the last two months and has $4.9 million in the bank heading into the general election. He officially accepted the Republican nomination for governor Saturday.
Each candidate tried to put a positive spin on his numbers, looking for any evidence of momentum during the final week of campaigning.
Moran campaign chairwoman Mame Reiley called her candidate's numbers evidence of "a dramatic spike" that will leave him with sufficient funds to compete. "Other candidates have blown through their resources at an alarming pace,'' Reiley said. "We have marshaled ours and targeted voters wisely."
Joe Abbey, Deeds's campaign manager, said: "All of the momentum in the polls is in our direction."
McAuliffe spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith said her candidate's haul made him best-equipped for a costly general election battle. "With Bob McDonnell receiving $3.5 million from the national Republican Party and RNC Chairman Michael Steele's declaration that Virginia will be the first victory in a 'Republican Renaissance,' " Smith said, "it's clear that the Democrats need a nominee who can compete with their vast financial resources."
McAuliffe had $1.2 million in the bank heading into the final stretch of the campaign, while Moran had $700,000 and Deeds had $521,000, as of last week. That disparity has led to some crucial decisions about communicating with voters.
Moran had aired $43,000 worth of TV ads as of Wednesday, all of them in Norfolk and Richmond, according to Evan Tracey, who tracks political advertising for the Campaign Media Analysis Group. By contrast, McAuliffe spent $900,000 during that period, advertising in every Virginia market except the D.C. suburbs. Deeds had spent almost $400,000.
Moran has added $85,000 worth of spots since then, and Deeds has purchased another $400,000 worth of advertising through next Tuesday, according to two sources who track TV ad buys for all three campaigns but asked not to be identified because the information is intended to remain confidential. McAuliffe, who on Sunday began airing his first ad in the Washington suburbs, will spend at least $740,000 on additional ads through next Tuesday, the source said.
Tracey said Moran's campaign appears to be counting on party loyalists and longtime activists, who might not need television advertising to decide. Still, he said, "it's obviously not where you want to be. . . . At the end of the day, you need to be driving the message at this point. That's just not what's happening now."
McDonnell, who has raised $9.8 million, has outspent all of the Democrats on TV ads, even though he faced no opposition for his party's nomination. Since mid-May, he has aired $1.2 million worth of ads across the state, including Northern Virginia. He began spending an additional $700,000 on Monday, more than half in Northern Virginia.
McDonnell can thank Republicans at the national level for much of his money. The Republican Governors Association has given him nearly $2 million and the Republican National Committee has given $1.5 million.
McDonnell has been on the air in part to respond to a crush of ads by Common Sense Virginia, a political action committee that has spent $2.25 million from the Democratic Governors Association to portray him as unfeeling for advising state lawmakers to refuse federal stimulus money for unemployed workers.
Virginia has no limits on how much an individual or corporation can donate to a state race. But state law barred Deeds and McDonnell from raising money during the legislative session earlier this year.
Staff writer Derek Kravitz contributed to this report.