McCain due in city for fundraiser

Presidential contenders get $19 million from Md.

July 22, 2008|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,Sun reporter

Sen. John McCain is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore this evening for his first high-profile fundraising visit to Maryland since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, the latest foray by a presidential candidate mining the state's steady supply of campaign cash.

Tonight's reception at the Center Club downtown will be hosted by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and marks perhaps his most visible effort in McCain's behalf to date.

Political analysts don't expect McCain to fare well against Democrat Barack Obama in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 2-to-1. As usual, the state has been a significant supplier of campaign cash for candidates of both parties during the 2008 elections.

Marylanders have given $19.3 million to presidential contenders during the current cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Obama collected $8 million from the state, with about $5 million coming from the prosperous Washington suburb of Montgomery County, home to many lawyers, lobbyists and executives who do business with the federal government. He got about $800,000 from ZIP codes in Baltimore.

McCain took in $1.6 million through June, with $860,000 coming from Montgomery and $124,000 from Baltimore.

Ehrlich was an early supporter of former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and most of his allies followed suit, including former Ehrlich finance chief Richard Hug, a member of the elite fundraising team for President Bush known as Rangers.

The Ehrlich allies, including his much-touted fundraising team, have slowly mobilized for McCain. Hug said in an interview yesterday that he and other Ehrlich supporters were firmly behind the Arizona Republican, despite rumblings to the contrary.

"If we weren't supportive of McCain, we wouldn't be doing this event," Hug said. "I think that speaks for itself."

Hug was raising money for Giuliani but donated $2,300 to McCain on May 16, according to the Federal Election Commission database. Another member of Maryland's McCain finance committee, J.W. Marriott Jr., is a member of the hotel-chain family that were major backers of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

There are no donations yet recorded to McCain from Ehrlich.

Neither Hug nor a campaign spokeswoman would disclose the expected tally from tonight's fundraiser, with tickets priced at the federal general election maximum of $2,300 for a photograph with the Arizona senator and $1,000 for regular admission.

But Hug said, "It's going to be a full house." The Center Club can hold a few hundred people, so McCain's take will likely be six figures.

Some prominent Maryland Republicans will not be attending. Lobbyist W. Minor Carter said neither he nor other key members of a group of veterans supporting McCain plan to be there, an indication that Ehrlich and his top allies have yet to bridge differences with some longtime McCain supporters.

"We have, since McCain began this run, not been working with the apparatus holding this, because they had been supporting other people," Carter said.

McCain's scheduled stop has drawn the attention of Obama's top Maryland supporters, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who gathered yesterday with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin in the shadow of the downtown office tower that houses the Center Club to denounce McCain as out-of-touch with the needs of city and state residents.

"When he leaves with his pockets full of money, there will still be people in our state trying to figure out how to make ends meet," said Cummings, who with Gansler is an Obama Maryland campaign co-chairman. Representatives of the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO are planning demonstrations today.

Neither Cummings nor Gansler has donated to Obama, federal records show. Cummings said yesterday that he traveled extensively at his own expense on Obama's behalf and, "I've done enough." Gansler said he has helped Obama raise money.

The Baltimore fundraiser is one of a series of money-raising stops in the Northeast by McCain, who has set an ambitious schedule of fundraisers during a week when rival Obama is visiting the Middle East and Europe on a high-visibility international trip.

McCain raised money yesterday in Kennebunkport, Maine, later appearing before reporters with former President George Bush and in Buffalo, N.Y., his campaign said.

The Baltimore stop "is part of his aggressive fundraising activity across the country," spokesman Gail Gitcho said. The McCain campaign plans to open its first Maryland office in the next few weeks in Annapolis, where McCain spent his undergraduate years as a Naval Academy midshipman, Gitcho said.

Nationally, McCain has raised $132.7 million, compared with $339.2 for Obama, according to the FEC. But the Republican National Committee is accumulating reserves that it can spend on McCain's behalf, helping to close the gap.

The Obama campaign has taken pride in the number of new and relatively small donors it has attracted. More than 46 percent of its donations have been in amounts of $200 or less, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money in elections.

Among McCain givers, about 26 percent gave $200 or less. Nearly one in two McCain donors contributed the maximum individual amount of $2,300 for a primary or general election, while about 27 percent of Obama contributors did so.


What: McCain fundraiser

Where: Center Club, 100 Light Street, Baltimore

When: Today 6 p.m. VIP reception; 6:30 p.m. general reception

Tickets: $1,000 per person general; $2,300 per person VIP

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