Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) announced yesterday that his fundraising continues to break records, bringing in at least $34 million in June to push the total for his presidential campaign to $182 million or more.
While still behind President Bush, who reported raising $214.8 million through the end of May, Kerry during the past four months has been raising money at a faster pace than Bush.
Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said in a statement that small donations have produced a total of $100 million. She contended that "the strength of the small donor has helped level the financial playing field with the Bush campaign."
Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel declined to estimate how much the campaign raised in June, but, he said, there was about $64 million in the bank Wednesday. The Kerry campaign had $28 million at the end of May but could not provide an estimate of the current cash level.
In a separate development, Kerry's list of potential vice presidential nominees shrank by one yesterday when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson formally withdrew his name from consideration. Richardson had met with Kerry in Phoenix on Tuesday night to discuss the job.
Richardson spoke by phone with Kerry and later sent a letter of withdrawal. In the letter, he said that when he ran for governor in 2002, he made a pledge to the people of New Mexico to serve a full term. "I need to honor that pledge," he said.
"While we don't comment on who may or may not be in the vice presidential search process, John Kerry has the utmost respect for Governor Richardson and his abilities as a leader, both nationally and in New Mexico," campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.
Richardson's withdrawal came as speculation about the search mounted. An announcement is expected early this month. Some Democrats say it could come as early as next week.
Kerry begins a three-day bus tour through the Midwest today and will spend the holiday Monday hosting a barbecue party with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, at their farm near Pittsburgh.
Kerry's campaign has begun to assemble a team to help manage the vice presidential candidate's operation, headed by Peter Scher, a Washington lawyer who served in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in the Clinton administration.
Kerry has been discreet in his deliberations, shielding those under consideration from public exposure. Much of the public discussion has been on Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. But sources said several others still figure in Kerry's thinking. That group may include Sens. Bob Graham (Fla.), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), among others.
Kerry's June fundraising total underscored the significance of his decision to opt out of public financing for the primaries -- and of the financial return of wrapping up the nomination in early March.
The Democratic National Committee issued a comparison of Kerry's fundraising with operations in earlier contests to demonstrate the benefits of DNC Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe's efforts to move up the primaries, allowing Kerry to lock up the nomination on March 2. In late June 1992, for example, Bill Clinton owed more than $4 million and had less than $200,000 in the bank.
This month will mark the end of Kerry's primary fundraising efforts. On July 29, he is expected to accept the Democratic nomination at the party convention in Boston. After that, his campaign will be financed by a $75 million grant from the federal government, and he will not be allowed to raise money privately.
The more money Kerry raises, the larger the surplus he is likely to have upon receiving the nomination. Kerry lent his campaign $6.4 million by mortgaging his half of his Beacon Hill home.
Under a provision of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law known as the "millionaire's amendment," Kerry will have 20 days after getting the nomination to decide whether to pay himself back. If not settled after 20 days, the loan becomes a contribution and cannot be paid back.
Kerry is likely to face pressure from fellow Democrats and campaign strategists to transfer any surplus campaign money to the DNC and to state parties.