Texas Gov. George W. Bush raised more than $67 million for his White House bid in a nine-month fund-raising dash, and still has $31.4 million in the bank after spending more in the pre-election year than any primary contender ever.
Figures released yesterday by the Bush campaign show that its fund-raising was far more modest during the final three months of 1999, when he collected $10 million, than in the previous quarter, when the campaign brought in $20 million. Still, Bush this quarter easily surpassed the amount raised by any other candidate in either party.
Bush's fund-raising team was so confident they diverted some of their efforts in the last month to raising what sources said was "several million dollars" for about 20 state Republican parties around the country in an unprecedented joint effort.
While raising less for the campaign, Bush began spending at a dramatic pace, laying out $17 million in just the fourth quarter -- more than his chief GOP rival, John McCain, has raised all year. Overall, Bush has spent $36 million this year, or about 54 percent of his total raised.
Bush's closest rival in fund-raising this quarter was Democrat Bill Bradley, whose campaign announced on Wednesday that it raised more than $8 million in October, November and December -- double that of Vice President Gore. Overall, both Democrats have raised around $28 million each this year.
Although Bradley has more cash on hand, when their federal matching funds are taken into account, he and Gore are expected to have just under $20 million each left to spend in next year's primaries.
In the Republican race, Bush has lost political ground in recent months to McCain, with a spate of recent polls showing him trailing the Arizona senator in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Feb. 1 primary. McCain has been able to bank some of that political momentum, raising twice as much in the final quarter of this year, $6.1 million, as he did in the previous three months, for a total of $15.6 million in 1999.
But the GOP political establishment has already voted in the unofficial money primary overwhelmingly for Bush. "Americans are getting involved in the political process in historic numbers," Bush finance chairman Donald L. Evans said in an interview. "We had 170,000 contributors -- that's historic."
Indeed, Bush collected so much money that he announced this summer he was forgoing $13 million in federal matching funds in order to raise and spend unlimited amounts. Now, his campaign argues that financial advantage will prove decisive against McCain, contending that McCain will not have the funds to capitalize on any early primary victories. McCain has just $1.5 million left in the bank and expects to receive about $6.2 million in matching funds.
McCain has already laid out 90 percent of all the money he's raised, spending millions on advertising in hopes of upsetting Bush in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Gore has spent 81 percent of his total, largely due to a higher rate of early spending, while Bradley has spent about 73 percent of his total after a spending surge in the fourth quarter.