WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry announced yesterday that his presidential campaign has collected more than $100 million in the past three months, hitting its goal more than a month early and out-raising President Bush each month since the Massachusetts Democrat clinched his party's nomination March 2.
With six weeks to go until the Democratic National Convention, Kerry's campaign asserted yesterday that he has done better than the president in collecting Internet contributions and other small donations, and beaten by $30 million the $115 million record Bush set in 2000 for most money raised by a nonincumbent candidate.
Kerry raised $45 million more than Bush in the past 90 days, his campaign said, including at least double what Bush did in May - $26 million to $13 million. Kerry aides released the figures in advance of a Federal Election Commission reporting deadline of June 20.
However, they declined to say how much Kerry has spent, how much he has on hand, and any indebtedness, saying that those figures will be in the report.
The Bush campaign declined to confirm the $13 million May figure, saying it would disclose the total tomorrow.
Kerry still badly trails Bush - who has raised more than $200 million - in the money race. But the new figures show that he is continuing to exceed strategists' early expectations. Campaign finance experts attribute Kerry's success to the urgency Bush's opponents feel to oust him, and to polls showing that the race continues to be close.
His campaign released the figures on a day when Kerry met in his Capitol hideaway with several people he has considered picking as his vice-presidential running mate. Aides would not comment on who huddled with Kerry, but prominent candidates for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket include Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa.
'Stronger than ever'
After Kerry's decisive Super Tuesday victories in early March confirmed his position as the party nominee, some Democrats worried that he would be unable to compete with Bush, given the massive fund-raising advantage the president enjoyed. According to FEC disclosures last month, the Bush campaign spent $80 million on advertising in March and April alone.
Kerry's aides said yesterday that the newest fund-raising results show that the negative advertisements Bush has purchased have not hurt the Massachusetts senator.
"When John Kerry essentially secured the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday, the Bush campaign immediately launched a negative attack campaign, declaring that within 90 days they would 'bury' our campaign," said Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry's campaign manager. "I'm happy to report that 90 days later, they failed. The Bush campaign has spent $80 million in negative ads while the Kerry campaign is stronger than ever."
The Bush campaign, which has stopped holding fund-raisers during the past two months and focused on collecting mail and Internet contributions, said it has plenty to spend to promote the president and his positions. Bush did appear at a Republican gala last month, raising $38.5 million, but that money went to the national party.
"This election is going to be decided on the issues. It's going to be about who can make the economy grow and who can win the war on terrorism, and John Kerry is wrong on those issues," said Kevin Madden, a Bush campaign spokesman. "We believe we have the resources we need to get that message out."
Madden noted that the Bush campaign has far exceeded its goal of raising $170 million.
Kerry has been especially successful in the past 90 days in what his campaign calls "grass-roots fund-raising," which includes money collected online, or through mail or phone solicitations. That accounts for three-quarters of the $100 million, according to yesterday's figures.
"That is a level of grass-roots support that no American politician has seen in that period of time - ever," said Michael Meehan, a Kerry campaign spokesman.
The figures prove that Kerry has broad appeal, Meehan said. Perhaps more importantly, the fund-raising process has generated a list of donors to ask for more money, since their small checks amount to far less than the $2,000 that campaign finance law allows individuals to give to a candidate.
"That's usually the hardest part of low-dollar fund-raising," Meehan said.
But Bush's campaign pointed to the number of people who have given money to the president's campaign - 1 million - as evidence that his grass-roots backing is robust.
"The depth and breadth of our support is very strong," Madden said.