Kerry said to narrow money gap with Bush

Democrat's campaign says it raised $50 million in 3 months, half by Internet


WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry's campaign said yesterday that it raised $50 million in the past three months, more than half over the Internet, and announced several high-profile staff changes.

The fund-raising surge, which began in earnest early last month when Kerry emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee, cut into the financial lead of President Bush, who had $46 to every $1 for Kerry at the end of February, according to campaign finance reports.

The Kerry campaign announced the numbers alongside the appointment of John Sasso, a longtime Massachusetts political hand, as general election chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and a much-reduced role for Jim Margolis, the media consultant many people see as responsible for Kerry's winning advertisements in the primaries.

Kerry's fund-raising figures show that Bush's financial advantage will not remain as lopsided as it started. Though the president has out-raised Kerry by tens of millions - and he is capable of raising more - Kerry aides say their financial fortunes had greatly improved in the plast 10 weeks.

"We will have the resources we need to compete," said Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry's campaign manager, adding, "We don't think we need to match Bush dollar by dollar."

Three-quarters of Kerry's money came in last month as major fund-raisers and organizations that had earlier supported other Democratic candidates shifted their loyalties to his campaign.

Kerry set a single-quarter fund-raising record for a presidential challenger and gained substantially on his goal to raise $80 million by this summer, according to the campaign.

While some Democrats say Kerry can raise more, few say he will reach parity with the more than $180 million raised so far by Bush, who had no need to spend it in unopposed primaries. Kerry brought in almost $79 million, including a $6.4 million personal loan to the campaign, but had to spend heavily to reach the general election. Neither campaign has announced totals for what they now have on hand.

Both Bush and Kerry forfeited public financing for the primaries, freeing them from a $45 million spending limit they would have faced until the political conventions this summer.

The move was risky for Kerry, who walked away from millions in public subsidies as others were raising more money. But it paid off, allowing him to raise and spend without limits in the coming months.

Both Bush and Kerry are raising money to finance television advertising in swing states in the months before the conventions, when each will receive about $75 million in public financing for the general election.

Kerry will get the money a month earlier than Bush because the Democratic Convention is in late July and the Republican Convention begins in late August, but he will also have to make it last longer.

Until then, Kerry is making the most of the Internet, where he raised almost $27 million through March.

Kerry used many of the strategies that propelled a former rival, Howard Dean. The Kerry campaign saw a burst of Internet money - $2.6 million - on March 4, two days after his powerful showing in the Super Tuesday primaries. It followed up with a stream of e-mail solicitations, including some from famous Democrats such as former President Bill Clinton.

Kerry is also continuing a 20-city fund-raising tour that began in California last week.

The personnel changes came amid concerns among some Democrats, including members of Congress, that Kerry had allowed Bush to seize the initiative over the past two weeks as the senator took a vacation and had shoulder surgery.

Some outside the campaign said the diminished role for Margolis was a sign of the growing influence of Kerry's senior adviser, Robert Shrum, who handled the senator's advertisements in his 1996 re-election race and who won last fall's power struggle that led to the ouster of Kerry's former campaign manager, Jim Jordan.

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