WASHINGTON – John Kerry (search) cut his campaign spending sharply last month in an effort to stretch $75 million in government funding, but he still started September with several million less than President Bush.
Bush's financial advantage heading into the campaign's final weeks stems from the GOP's decision to hold its presidential nominating convention a month later than the Democratic gathering.
Not only does Kerry have to make his $75 million in full government financing for the general-election phase of the campaign last a month longer than Bush does, but the Democratic National Committee is burning through its money to promote its nominee faster than the Republican National Committee is.
Kerry spent $10 million last month, starting September with $62 million just as Bush was about to get his $75 million from the Federal Election Commission (search). Kerry's August spending compares with $36 million in July when he could still use private contributions to cover campaign costs.
The DNC started this month with $56 million in the bank after spending roughly $55 million in August, much of it on TV and radio ads supporting Kerry and opposing Bush.
The Republican National Committee spent about $20 million in August, starting September with nearly $94 million on hand. The party nominated Bush on Sept. 2, putting an end to his private campaign fund raising just over a month after Kerry's nomination put an end to his.
Both parties are aggressively raising money to spend in the presidential race. In addition to the unlimited amounts they can spend independent of their nominees, each can spend roughly $16 million in coordination with them.
"We either pull out all the stops over the next few weeks or we will live to regret it," Democratic strategist James Carville told prospective donors in a DNC fund-raising letter sent last week.
Kerry and Bush can assist the party fund-raising efforts, though they can no longer raise campaign money for themselves. Both headlined party fund-raisers in New York on Monday; Kerry helped the DNC raise $4 million, while the RNC took in $3 million at an event featuring Bush.
Bush raised a record $260 million for his re-election bid through last month, including $18 million in August. His total was more than double the presidential record of roughly $106 million he set in the 2000 primary race, when he had GOP opponents.
Bush spent nearly $224 million from the official start of his re-election effort in May 2003 through last month, according to a monthly campaign finance report he filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission. He spent about $14 million in August.
Ads consumed roughly $87 million of Bush's money, according to an analysis by the Political Money Line campaign finance tracking service.
Bush finished the primary campaign with nearly $37 million on hand and only about $21,000 in bills to pay. He cannot spend the leftover money on his own campaign, but can give it to the GOP and other candidates.
Kerry raised $233 million and spent at least $185 million from the start of his campaign in January 2003 through July, when private fund-raising ended for his campaign.
The DNC raised about $202 million from January 2003 through last month and spent about $147 million, while the RNC raised at least $271 million and spent roughly $182 million, campaign finance reports the parties filed Monday show.