Democrat Bill Bradley has raised more money in the past three months for his presidential campaign than Vice President Gore and has more of it left in the bank, his campaign said yesterday, marking a dramatic shift in fund-raising momentum as Bradley has gone from long-shot challenger to serious threat.
The increasingly competitive Democratic battle stands in sharp contrast to the GOP contest overwhelmingly dominated by Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Yesterday, Bush said he has collected $56 million this year and $19 million in the past three months--more than the two Democrats' combined totals. Even after a sharp increase in spending, Bush has stockpiled $37 million.
A day after Gore announced that he would move his operation "lock, stock and barrel" to Tennessee, Bradley's team revealed surging fund-raising that enabled him to raise more than $6.7 million between July and yesterday's end of the third quarter, compared with Gore's $6.5 million.
The former New Jersey senator also has "more than $10 million" in the bank, according to senior adviser Anita Dunn, while Gore's consultant-laden team estimated having between $9.5 million and $10 million on hand.
Just a few months ago, the vice president's advisers expected fund-raising to be one of his major assets in fending off an outsider challenge from Bradley, confidently predicting that, by this fall, they would have raised all the money they need for next year's early-starting primary contests. Now, the Gore team has acknowledged that it will have to cut costs and trim its large staff in order to stay competitive.
Overall, Bradley has raised about $18.4 million for his campaign, still significantly less than the $24 million collected by Gore.
But the vice president's incumbent-style campaign is spending at a much higher rate--$6 million in the past few months compared with $4.2 million for Bradley's run--even as his fund-raising is proving to be slower than expected. That means that Gore has spent 58 percent of all the money he has raised, while Bradley has spent 46 percent of his total.
"What made a huge difference for us in the third quarter was the success of direct-mail and Internet fund-raising," said Dunn, who noted that the campaign's online effort has generated $650,000--far more than any other candidate in either party. Bradley himself insisted that he still felt like "an underdog," telling reporters, "I don't think we have momentum. I think we have a little traction."
The Gore team was prepared for Bradley's showing, having accepted in recent weeks that "Bradley's going to have the money to fully deliver a message to the voters," as one of Gore's top advisers put it.
On the Republican side, the campaign numbers that poured in yesterday reflected Arizona Sen. John McCain's position as a very distant second to Bush in fund-raising, with $3 million raised during the past quarter and $2 million on hand.
In the primary, the only money threat to Bush comes from millionaire publisher Steve Forbes, who raised $1.4 million in the third quarter while pouring in $9.5 million of his own funds. Overall, Forbes has already spent more than $15 million from his personal bank account this year. Despite single-digit showings in the polls, the Forbes campaign's total spending matches Bush's: $19 million.
Also emerging more clearly yesterday was Elizabeth Dole's tenuous financial state. Even with a relatively strong third place showing in the August Iowa straw poll, Dole raised less during the past quarter than she had done in the previous three months, collecting only about $1.7 million.
Dole's overall total of $5 million puts her behind even conservative activist Gary Bauer, who has raised a total of $5.4 million, $2 million of which was generated in the past quarter. Dole, however, had $850,000 in the bank compared with $300,000 for Bauer's relatively expensive, direct-mail operation.
"They have no apparent game plan that I can see for capitalizing on any success they might have," said one frustrated Dole ally. But Dole finance chairwoman Bonnie McElveen Hunter insisted that Dole will not withdraw. "We're all in this to finish the race," she said.
With its massive bank account, the Bush campaign--which chose to give up $13 million in federal matching funds for the primary campaign in order to be free to raise and spend unlimited amounts--is headed into uncharted territory. "There is a growing realization," said one Bush adviser, "that there is no top end theoretically to what we can raise, but in reality there has to come a point where you cap it off."
In the next few months, the source said, Bush's schedule will include far fewer fund-raising events, which "puts some limitations" on how much he will collect.
Still, campaign strategists are so buoyed by Bush's success, the source said, that they are debating among themselves several fund-raising options should Bush secure the GOP nomination by early March--including the possibility that Bush might also decide to opt out of the $66 million in public funds for the general election.
The campaign has already greatly stepped up its spending, shelling out $12 million in just the past three months and $19 million altogether. Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker attributed the increase to high travel costs, as the governor's entourage has crisscrossed the country, and new expenses, such as opening offices in California, Virginia and South Carolina.
But Bush's fund-raisers are still proclaiming themselves "the Southwest Airlines of campaigns--serving peanuts only," as one put it. They note that Bush has spent just 34 percent of the total he has raised--a far lower rate than any other contender's.
Patrick J. Buchanan, who is considering bolting the GOP for the Reform Party, has raised a total of $4 million, $1.6 million of that during the third quarter. But he has only $250,000 in the bank. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) has spent virtually all of the money he has collected: He has raised $1.2 million total and spent $1.1 million.
Staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.