WASHINGTON – Aided by aggressive Internet campaigns, Democratic presidential candidates Howard Dean (search) and Wesley Clark (search) raised the most money in the final quarter of 2003, according to preliminary estimates.
Dean, the Democratic front-runner, will have raised more than $14 million in the final three months, pushing his yearly total to almost $40 million. Campaign manager Joe Trippi called on donors to push the quarterly total to the $14.8 million the campaign raised from July through September.
Clark, the retired Army general who entered the race in September, will have raised between $10 million and $12 million in the fourth quarter, for a total of almost $15 million since becoming a candidate.
Clark will get an additional bump after the New Year with an estimated $3.7 million worth of federal matching money, while Dean has declined public funds. All the other candidates, except Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search), will also receive federal matching funds after Jan. 1.
By raising almost as much money as Dean in the third quarter and accepting federal matching funds, Clark should be financially competitive with Dean in the near term.
The first contests of the Democratic campaign come with Iowa's precinct caucuses on Jan. 19 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 27.
Dean's strategy of rejecting public financing has long-term advantages, allowing him to raise more money in the spring and summer, and decide where to spend it, said campaign finance analyst Kent Cooper.
Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that he expects to end the final quarter with $3 million to $4 million in new donations, about the same amount as from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Gephardt raised $13.9 million in the first three quarters. His campaign also expects more than $3 million in federal matching funds next year.
"I think we'll roughly be where we've been in the last quarter. I think we are going to have a good year," Gephardt said. "We are going to have adequate funding with the matching funding to run a campaign in all the early states."
Kerry, who also has declined federal matching funds, has raised more than $20 million for the year, though that fund raising slowed in the final quarter.
His campaign expects to raise between $2 million and $4 million for the period, in addition to $6.4 million Kerry is loaning the campaign based on a mortgage of his share of his family's home in Boston.
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has said he expects to raise $20 million by the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19, and campaign aides said Monday he still expects to do that.
He raised $14.4 million in the first three quarters of the year, but his campaign declined to release the fourth-quarter total. Edwards expects an estimated $3.4 million in federal matching funds after the New Year.
Campaign aides for Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who raised $11.7 million through the first three quarters of the year, declined to give specifics about his fourth-quarter earnings. The campaign will not raise as much as the $3.6 million raised in the third quarter, but will get an additional $3.6 million in federal funds.
Some Lieberman staffers volunteered to postpone their paychecks for two weeks at the end of the year so that more money will be available for the final campaign push.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich will have raised at least $1.5 million in the fourth quarter and will get $740,000 in matching funds. The campaigns of Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton did not provide details of their fourth-quarter fund raising.
No matter how much they raise, the Democratic candidates will face a steep challenge competing financially with President Bush.
Bush's re-election campaign had raised more than $115 million by early December, more than the $106 million Bush raised for the 2000 elections.