Gore slips in money chase

Since July 1, Bradley has raised more funds than vice president

2 Democrats trail Bush

October 01, 1999|By Jonathan Weisman | Jonathan Weisman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The surging Democratic campaign of former Sen. Bill Bradley out-raised Vice President Al Gore's campaign over the past three months, placing still more pressure on a Gore team that is struggling to find its footing in the presidential race.

The $6.7 million that Bradley, of New Jersey, has raised since the beginning of July brought his total for the year to more than $18.4 million, though shy of Gore's $24 million. Gore raised about $6.5 million in the third quarter.

The Bradley staff has saved much of the money it has raised, while Gore's staff has spent at a far higher rate, on high-priced consultants, pollsters, a large Washington operation and state organizations from coast to coast. The differing approaches have left each campaign with almost the same amount of money in the bank, about $10 million.

Campaigning in California yesterday, Bradley said he remains the underdog. "I don't think we have momentum; I think we have a little traction," he said, seeking to play down expectations.

The money-raising juggernaut of the Republican front-runner, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, keeps rolling. Since the start of July, Bush has raised $12.5 million more than Gore, the Bush campaign said.

Bush has raised a record $56 million this year, well more than double Gore's total. By contrast, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another Republican presidential candidate, announced yesterday that his campaign had raised a total of $7.3 million.

The fund-raising totals emerged a day after Gore said he would move his campaign headquarters from Washington to his home state of Tennessee in a determined bid to shake up his operation.

His campaign manager, Craig Smith, will head the transition, Gore aides said, but he will not move to Nashville to stay on with the campaign leadership. Smith referred to his two young daughters as the reason he would not move.

The Gore campaign's move to Nashville was done, in part, to shed costs and staff. With the release of the latest fund-raising totals, that need has become more apparent. The Gore campaign spent almost all the $6.5 million it raised in the third quarter.

Anita Dunn, a senior Bradley consultant, noted that the Gore campaign has spent $59,000 in rent on its Washington headquarters, while Bradley's monthly rent at his New Jersey headquarters is $24,000.

Gore advisers and fund-raisers insisted that the campaign was doing fine financially.

"This is not so bad for Gore," said Roy Neel, a longtime adviser. "Gore has still out-raised any Democrat in history. But it's very good news for Bradley."

The Federal Election Commission is expected this year to cap presidential fund-raising at about $34 million for candidates who seek federal matching funds. Gore aides expect to reach that level by the end of the year.

That should bring Gore a $13.5 million infusion of federal matching grants in January, just in time for a caucus-and-primary season that will all but determine the nominee by March 7, when 15 states, from California to Maryland to New York, hold their primaries.

The Bradley campaign will receive smaller matching grants for the large donations it relied on in the early months of the campaign, Gore aides note and Dunn said.

Gore fund-raisers acknowledged some disappointment. They had hoped to reach the fund-raising maximum much earlier this year and then shift their efforts away toward getting out their message. Now, they expect that their fund-raising will have to continue into next year.

But Democratic fund-raising is not going Gore's way. The vice president's money-raising total has fallen each quarter, from $8.9 million in the first quarter to $8.7 million in the second to $6.5 million in the third, which included the summer doldrums. Bradley's totals look more positive, having risen from $4.3 million to $7.4 million, before dropping to $6.7 million in the quarter that just ended.

"The support I see for Bill Bradley among Democratic donors are people who really have not connected with this administration, for some reason," said Alan Solomont, a Boston health-care consultant and top Gore fund-raiser. "Part of Bill Bradley's appeal is that he is a new face."

Some Gore fund-raisers are anxiously watching Bush's totals pile up. Whichever Democrat prevails in a tight race for the nomination may be out of cash once the primary season wraps up in March. The Democratic nominee will have to wait for his nomination in August before he can receive federal matching grants for the general election.

If the well-financed Bush clinches the Republican nomination early, he would probably have four months to blanket the airwaves with a message that would be largely unopposed by his Democratic contestant, one top Gore fund-raiser noted.

Gore's staff, shifting its focus away from Bush and toward Bradley, dismissed that concern.

"If I got down in the dumps every time a Republican outspent a Democrat, I'd be a very depressed person," said Kiki Moore, a spokeswoman for Gore.

Gore aides said their spending would begin to slow. During the winter and spring, Gore's political staff set up expensive state and regional staffs across the country.

Bradley aides have focused on a few key states such as New Hampshire, hoping that victories there will create the momentum to defeat Gore's more extensive organization. Dunn said that the Bradley campaign has begun ramping up spending on direct-mail efforts and state-by-state organizing -- efforts that Gore aides say they have largely wrapped up.

"We can be tough and disciplined. It's a new campaign now," Neel said.

Pub Date: 10/01/99

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