WASHINGTON - President Bush's re-election campaign reported yesterday raising a record $143.5 million through Jan. 31 and had $104.4 million in the bank, a bankroll it will tap heavily once Democrats settle on a nominee.
Bush's campaign also announced it attracted 50,000 new contributors as it raised $12.8 million in January. The president is on track to reach his goal of $170 million in total contributions by April, if not earlier.
But for anxious Republicans looking toward November, the numbers that matter at the moment are Bush's poll ratings. Some recent national surveys have shown him trailing the two remaining major contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina.
While the effectiveness of Bush's money machine impresses political professionals, the flameout of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's presidential candidacy was a reminder that fund-raising success does not necessarily translate into votes. Dean raised $50 million, a record for a Democrat, but failed to win a single primary or caucus before he suspended his campaign.
Dean had raised $47.6 million by the end of January, records show, and had nearly $5 million on hand at that point.
Edwards filed a report yesterday showing that he had received $2 million in individual contributions and $3.4 million in federal matching funds during January.
For the entire campaign, he had received $22.5 million, including $5.1 million in federal funds. But he had just $500,000 in cash on hand at the end of the month. His campaign has said his fund-raising has picked up since his strong second place in Wisconsin's primary.
Figures were not available for Kerry as of late yesterday.
Bush's fund raising for his re-election broke the Republican record he had set in the 2000 campaign, when he collected slightly more than $100 million in donations. But many within the GOP are wondering when his campaign will stop raising money and start spending it.
So far, the only public responses from Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their political team to months of relentless criticism from Democratic hopefuls have come through news releases, sporadic speeches, media interviews and the Internet.
The Bush-Cheney campaign shed little light yesterday on when it plans to move to radio and television advertising.
"Stay tuned," said campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel. "We have indicated that there would come a time when this would be a two-person race. We are rapidly approaching that time."
Judging from their fierce Internet assault on Kerry and his record, the Republicans clearly view him as Bush's likely opponent. The stepped-up GOP attacks have sought to depict Kerry as a hypocrite when he portrays himself as an opponent of special interests. The Republicans have trumpeted news accounts about the senator's long record of raising money from lobbyists and others with business in Washington.
But some analysts questioned whether the Bush camp could maintain that argument, given the president's fund-raising sources.
"You have huge amounts of money flowing to him from the financial services industry and the real estate and development interests all across the country," said Dwight L. Morris, a Virginia-based campaign finance analyst. "If you have nearly $105 million in the bank, you can't be throwing stones about special interests."
According to Morris' analysis of campaign data, the Bush campaign has benefited the most from donors tied to Pricewaterhousecoopers LLP ($409,000); Merrill Lynch and Co. ($396,000) and UBS Financial Services ($283,000).
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.