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Dean Leading Party in 'Money Primary'

Democratic candidate seeks more support in nationwide conference call from Los Angeles. Bush shows even more fund-raising muscle.

September 30, 2003|Nick Anderson and Hugo Martin | Times Staff Writers

Having already eclipsed a fund-raising record for Democratic presidential candidates, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean came to Los Angeles on Monday for an unusual nationwide conference call to exhort his supporters to drum up even more money.

Dean was the guest of honor at a local "house call party" -- one of an estimated 1,500 such gatherings across the country Monday run by his campaign.

The events, promoted as "Dr. Dean's House Call," underscored the innovative organizing techniques that have marked his candidacy, including extensive use of the Internet.

During the conference call, Dean outlined his vision for the country, boasted of his plans to energize disenfranchised voters and attacked President Bush's policies on the environment, AIDS, racial discrimination and national defense.

By talking to a large group of supporters in one call, Dean was seeking to boost to $15 million the amount he raised for the year's third quarter, which ends tonight. His campaign's Web site, updated every few hours in a manner reminiscent of a telethon, reported that as of Monday night, he had raised more than $13 million since July 1.

That topped the previous party record of $10.3 million that then-President Clinton set for one quarter eight years ago, and was expected to far exceed what any of Dean's Democratic opponents would report in donations in the last three months.

"I never talk about me going to the White House," Dean told supporters as he spoke from the modest Mid-Wilshire home of social activists Gary Phillips and Gilda Haas. "I always talk about us going to the White House."

He addressed about two dozen backers and reporters in a small living room, with thousands of others listening in on what his campaign claimed would be a record-setting conference call.

After the event, campaign staff said the conference call was linked to 3,557 phones. If accurate, the number of telephone links breaks the previous record held by a British pop group that linked up to 3,310 fans in 2000.

Earlier, in an e-mail to supporters, Dean wrote: "By joining with countless others who are taking action right now, you not only will shake the foundations of the political establishment, you will prove that the American people have the strength to restore a politics of participation in our country."

President Bush showed even more money-making muscle; his campaign announced that he was on track to raise $48 million to $50 million for the quarter, a new record for any presidential candidate. The previous high, according to the Federal Election Commission, was Bush's $35.1 million in the second quarter of this year. Bush has now raised more than $80 million this year for his reelection fund, about half his $170-million goal, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

The president was traveling to Chicago and Cincinnati for fund-raising events today. Bush has no competition for the Republican nomination. In contrast, the Democratic race is an intensely competitive, 10-candidate affair. Each of the contenders is striving to demonstrate momentum -- or at least viability -- through fund-raising. Today's deadline loomed large in what insiders called the "money primary" -- the process of wooing donors before January's crucial early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Among the other nine Democratic candidates, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts announced through an aide Monday that he was expecting to raise $4.5 million to $5 million for the third quarter. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was expecting about $4 million, a spokesman said. An aide to Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said he was expecting less than $4 million.

Aides to Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas declined to discuss fund-raising totals. Three other candidates -- Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York -- are running longshot, low-budget campaigns.

The final quarterly figures for all candidates will be made public in mid-October. A major unknown is how much money Clark has been able to raise since his late entry into the race shook up the field earlier this month. Associated Press reported that Clark's total is expected to be $2 million or more. If the retired general can approach in two weeks what Kerry and Lieberman raised in three months, he will solidify his status as a competitive, top-tier candidate.

But Dean has staked a claim as the undisputed front-runner and probable victor in the 2003 money primary, a major boost for him as the candidates begin a period of intensive campaigning. For the year, he has raised more than $23 million. Kerry ranked second with more than $20 million, including money transferred from an earlier Senate campaign.

Political analysts view Dean's total as particularly impressive, given that he began his campaign as an obscure politician from one of the nation's least-populous states.

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