Bush/Cheney Campaign Coffers

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", March 4, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: For more now on the Bush-Cheney organization and what all those campaign dollars are being spent on. We turn to Fox News contributor Jeff Birnbaum, who has just taken a new job as a columnist for The Washington Post.

Jeff, welcome. Congratulations.


HUME: I know you keep close track of these things. I know you are always the guy who knows what the money is, how much it is, and what it's being spent on. What more can you add to what we're hearing here?

BIRNBAUM: Well, we also need to say that a lot of the more than $100 million that the Bush-Cheney campaign has at the moment will go to advertising dollars.

HUME: And we have begun to see the beginning of that.

BIRNBAUM: That's right. About $5 million in buys of commercials this week alone. Which is, as best guess, about half of the entire amount of money that the Kerry campaign has in total right now. The Bush-Cheney...

HUME: So -- you -- wait a minute. That means that the Bush campaign has $100 million, the Kerry campaign may have 10.

BIRNBAUM: May have -- it has several million dollars, the Kerry campaign agrees.

HUME: But 10 would be -- would be -- wouldn't be a bad number for them at this moment.

BIRNBAUM: Wouldn't be a bad num -- wouldn't be a bad guess. But that isn't the end of their money, of course. In the next few months there's going to be a 20-city fundraising campaign, for big checks -- relatively big checks from the Kerry himself will do -- could raise about $20 million.

There's also the Internet, raised about -- over $1 million for the Kerry campaign in just a very short while. So there will be a lot of money raised by Kerry's campaign, but nothing like the 170 maybe $200 million in total that the Bush campaign will raise.

HUME: All right. So we know that can be spent on advertising.

BIRNBAUM: That's right.

HUME: What else?

BIRNBAUM: Well, Major Garrett, I think, hit a lot of it. It is a -- it is a state of the art, grass-roots campaign that the Bush-Cheney re- election effort is involved with. What this means is that this will be a presidential election that, at least on the Republican side, will be run as if it were a school board election.

HUME: How so?

BIRNBAUM: There will be precinct captains right down, almost block- by-block, in the 17 swing or close to swing states around the country. Not just counties, but right down to the precinct at block level, where there will be someone responsible for knowing who the likely Republican voters are, and getting those people to the polls.

They have already, that is the Bush campaign has already begun training those people right down to that level about how to identify, how to register. And then, how to keep in the good graces of those likely Republicans; therefore, likely Bush voters.

It will be the largest, get-out-the-vote effort ever undertaken. And it's a big surprise that the Republicans are doing this. This is a method more closely associated with organized labor.

HUME: Now, we're talking about the swing states, we're talking about a group of states that start in Missouri and move up across the band of states in the Midwest: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio.


HUME: Up into Minnesota, and places like kind of Iowa, perhaps as well.

BIRNBAUM: Also in the Pacific Northwest. Also, of course, Florida and those -- those places where it was close, but no cigar for the Bush campaign last time around. They don't want to lose any of them.

HUME: Is it possible that the Republicans can do a better job in Florida than the Democrats did four years ago and probably will do again ... in organizing and getting the vote out?

BIRNBAUM: I think that's absolutely likely. In part, because the well-known organizer Ralph Reed (search), who was once in charge of the Christian Coalition, famous for this grass-roots sort of organization, is in charge of a lot of organizing a lot of the south, including Florida.

And the president's own brother has a lot at stake, he is the governor of Florida. I bet he is going to be out there trying to drag some of those Republican voters out himself.

HUME: All right. Now, what else can you say about this organization?

BIRNBAUM: Well, it is actually a complete organization, in the sense that members of Congress, Republican leaders are going out and trying to train themselves. Rob Portman (search), for example, of Ohio, one of the very key states, has been out several times actually training some of these get out the vote experts. There's also a very strong media...

HUME: You mean this member of Congress is himself going out and basically running classes or...

BIRNBAUM: Well, he is -- he -- I'm not sure that he gets down to the nitty gritty in all the cases. But he is addressing some of these hundreds of thousands of volunteers, thousands of volunteers, let's say, who are in Ohio, making sure that he is putting his own prestige on the line. He is a very popular fellow in his home state. And let them know that re-electing the president is important to him.

That is -- that sort of from the very top to the very bottom, the activist in on the block level. That kind of connection I don't think has ever been attempted. We'll see if it actually works. This sort of thing, I should point out, could break down on the issues of bureaucracy. Is this too much to try to bite off? We don't really, really know.

But I mean there are other parts of this campaign that are also state- of-the-art. For example, the media effort is -- there are about twice the number of staffers in the campaign headquarters, that we saw earlier, who are devoted to getting out the Bush message not at the national level, but at the local level. This is something the President Clinton was famous for doing. Now Bush has borrowed a page from them. And they're getting in touch with local media outlets, local radio, local TV stations, trying to get out the Bush message.

And also, there are people who are talking a lot from the Bush-Cheney headquarters to like-minded radio talk show hosts. Which there's a big worry this year whether the Republican base will turn out for President Bush. This constant barrage of Bush message or propaganda, depending on your point of view, is something that is meant to try to instill confidence in Republican -- the Republican faithful that Bush is on their side.

HUME: Well, I must say it seems as if perhaps some of the organizational efforts and press effort at the local level are not matched, as we've seen with various things by the national media spokesman.

Jeff Birnbaum, good to have you. Thanks for coming.

BIRNBAUM: Thank you.

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