In a tally sure to further boost his confidence, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. raised five times more money in recent weeks than Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did, campaign finance reports show.
Although Townsend's campaign for governor has raised more money overall - $6.8 million compared with Ehrlich's $4.5 million - what began this year as a chasm between their bank accounts appears to be closing quickly.
During the most recent reporting period, from Aug. 7 to 25, Ehrlich raised more than $620,000.
According to reports due at the Board of Elections today, he is vacuuming money at the rate of $32,000 a day.
Townsend had a far quieter month, collecting about $126,000 during the reporting period.
Ehrlich spokesman Paul E. Schurick noted that Ehrlich also out-raised Townsend in the prior reporting period, which covered last November through Aug 6.
"They dismissed that as no big deal," Schurick said. "It was a big deal - that a Republican raised $1 million more than a Kennedy and a Democrat in the state of Maryland is a big deal.
"To turn around and not just raise more money, but to just absolutely blow them away in fund-raising cannot be dismissed."
Townsend's campaign played down the most recent figures, saying its fund-raising goals remained on track and that it had not scheduled many events this month.
"Considering that this was a period that was in the slow days of summer, we were right on target to raise what we wanted during this short window," said Peter Hamm, a Townsend spokesman.
Though Townsend's fund-raising prowess played no small part in scaring away potential Democratic rivals such as Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, her campaign portrayed her yesterday as a reluctant participant in a distasteful process.
"[Ehrlich] is a Republican. What they do is raise money," Hamm said. "We don't do it with great giddiness. ... I'm glad that they enjoy it. We just consider it a necessary part of the job that has to be done."
Candidates in dead heat
Ehrlich's success in the fund-raising contest comes as poll numbers this summer have shown him in a dead heat with Townsend. The disappearance of her once double-digit lead has fanned Republican hopes that Ehrlich could become the first GOP governor in Maryland in three decades.
Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University, said the close poll numbers are probably opening up checkbooks.
"The Republicans would love to beat a Kennedy," Crenson said.
Maryland is particularly attractive to the GOP, he added, because Gov. Parris N. Glendening is head of the Democratic Governors' Association, charged with helping elect members of his party nationwide.
"[Republicans] see an opportunity to really humiliate the Democrats here," Crenson said. "This is a good place for them to chalk up points."
Ehrlich is helping his cause with relentless fund raising.
Between now and the Nov. 5 general election, he has more than 70 fund-raisers scheduled - an average of more than one a day. He attends anything from breakfasts with a dozen people to cocktail parties that attract hundreds - a fund-raising style he also used in his congressional campaigns.
A large number of the events are house parties, in which supporters invite a select group of people into their homes to meet Ehrlich.
Asked whether the fund-raising flurry distracts him from campaigning, Ehrlich shook his head. "I do both," he said.
Townsend's campaign will pick up its pace next month, Hamm said. "We're going to have a lot of fund-raisers," he said.
Cash on hand
The latest finance reports show Townsend has not yet spent $4.5 million of her total, while Ehrlich has about $3.2 million "cash on hand."
The bulk of recent donations to Ehrlich's largest campaign account came from individual donors, while $26,750 came from political action committees and corporations. Townsend's largest account reported $12,500 from PACs.
In addition, Ehrlich spent far more during the reporting period: almost $259,000 compared with Townsend's nearly $77,000 in expenses.
One of Ehrlich's expenditures was a $40,000 transfer to an account called "Democrats for Ehrlich," a group associated with state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV. Last reporting period, Ehrlich gave the group $35,000.
"They're working very hard on the campaign's behalf," Schurick said when asked about the transfers. "That is a large and productive organization."