WASHINGTON – President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers (search), is adopting the name for a new team of volunteer fund-raisers who are expected to raise at least $200,000 each for his re-election campaign.
The "rangers," described Thursday by sources close to the campaign, will complement the "pioneers." Members of that group raised at least $100,000 each and helped Bush amass a record $100 million for his 2000 primary campaign.
Both groups will play a key role for Bush. Though the White House has tried to lower expectations, saying only that Bush will raise more than he did in 2000, he is widely expected to collect $200 million or more for his primary campaign.
Bush and his fund-raisers will be helped by an increase in contribution limits in the nation's new campaign finance law, which doubled the individual cap to $2,000 per election starting this year.
Bush so far lacks a challenger for the Republican nomination, leaving him free to use whatever he raises for the primaries to take on the Democratic nominee-to-be throughout the spring and summer of 2004.
The rangers share their name with the professional baseball team Bush once co-owned. They are expected to be an elite group, fewer than the pioneers but meeting double the fund-raising threshold.
The pioneers, who numbered more than 200 in Bush's last election, will also be expected to raise at least $100,000 each this time.
In addition to help from the two groups, Bush and his running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney (search), plan events around the country over the next month that should take in millions of dollars.
Bush has several $2,000-a-ticket fund-raisers on his agenda, including a June 23 event in New York, where those who raise at least $20,000 can have their photo taken with him; a luncheon in suburban San Francisco and a dinner in Los Angeles on June 27; and on June 30, a luncheon in Miami and an evening event in Tampa, Fla. Bush's two California events are expected to take in around $6 million.
Cheney is scheduled to headline a June 23 fund-raiser near Boston.
Bush began his re-election campaign last Friday, filing papers with the Federal Election Commission (search) and launching a campaign Web site that immediately started raising money. Fund-raising letters were mailed soon after that.
Bush is free to raise as much as he can. He announced last week that, as in his last race, he will skip public financing for the primaries and the spending limits that come with it.
Nearly all the nine Democratic hopefuls have said they will accept public funding for the primaries. That means they will be limited to a maximum of roughly $45 million in primary spending.
Two Democratic hopefuls - Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut - have left open the possibility of skipping public financing in the primaries.
Those who take primary public funding will get a government match of up to $250 for each contribution up to a certain amount.
They will have to make their money stretch until the Democratic National Convention (search), slated for late July 2004 in Boston. At that point, if the nominee accepts full public financing for the general election, he or she will get a lump-sum payment of about $74 million from the government that will have to last until Election Day.
Bush has not yet said whether he will accept public money for the general election. If he did so, he would have to make it last a month less than his Democratic rival. The GOP will hold its presidential nominating convention in late August 2004 in New York.