WASHINGTON – John Kerry (search) is focusing on raising the tens of millions of Democratic dollars he no longer must share with his rivals for the nomination while President Bush, sitting atop $170 million in donations, is turning his attention to bringing in money for the GOP and congressional candidates.
Kerry, too, is assuming the role of chief fund-raiser for his party. But unlike Bush, the Democratic nominee-to-be will have to squeeze in events for others while traveling the country to raise money on his own behalf. Kerry's campaign and the Democratic National Committee (search) are the top priorities, campaign spokesman Michael Meehan (search) said.
"We are focused on raising what we need to compete," Meehan said. He noted Bush's record campaign fund raising, which so far stands at more than $170 million, compared to at least $60 million for Kerry.
Kerry hopes to raise $15 million to $20 million for himself in 20 cities over the next six weeks, starting Monday with a luncheon in Sacramento and dinner in San Francisco. The campaign expected to raise roughly $2.5 million over the two-day California trip, which ends Tuesday with stops in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Kerry's fresh push for money comes as the DNC tries to narrow the Republican National Committee's multimillion-dollar cash advantage. Through last month, the DNC had raised about $56 million, compared to nearly $139 million for the RNC.
"Wherever he's doing a John Kerry for President event, in conjunction we are doing a DNC event," DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe (search) said. "So he's being very helpful for the party."
McAuliffe noted that this is the first time a presumptive Democratic nominee can raise money for himself well after the primaries, rather than focusing solely on party fund raising.
Unlike past nominees, Kerry opted out of public financing, freeing his campaign from a $45 million spending limit that would have been in place until the party's nominating convention in late July. Bush, too, skipped the government money.
Kerry is scheduled to appear at several DNC events in conjunction with his own fund-raisers between now and late April. In all, Kerry wants to raise roughly $105 million for himself, including $80 million this year. The DNC hopes to raise $100 million in 2004.
Kerry and the party will have plenty of help: Former President Clinton and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search), along with Al and Tipper Gore (search), will hit the money trail for the party and its candidates, McAuliffe said
Bush is also making use of a deep bench. Political adviser Karl Rove, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and campaign chairman Marc Racicot are among those making fund-raising appearances for the Bush campaign next month.
The last fund-raiser Bush is scheduled to hold for himself is Wednesday in Washington, D.C., where he kicked off his re-election fund raising last May. On Thursday, Bush will serve as keynote speaker at a dinner for House Republicans, beginning weeks of GOP fund raising.
"We want to avoid a lonely victory," Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said. "Obviously we view the election as a team effort and want to make sure we have victory at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and in statehouses all across the country."
In 2002, Bush raised more than $135 million for fellow Republicans, routinely taking in $1 million or more at events for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates.