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In money race, Graham in back of pack

He ranks sixth in the nine-candidate field, the latest figures show. His aides say he just got a late start.

BILL ADAIR, MATTHEW WAITE and KITTY BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 16, 2003

Two months after he entered the race for president, Sen. Bob Graham is lagging far behind the other candidates.

Graham's campaign said Tuesday he raised about $2-million in the second quarter, for a total of $3.1-million this year. He ranks sixth in the nine-candidate field and is down with the "second-tier" candidates - Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton.

He is also trailing in public opinion polls. The Florida Democrat barely registers in many surveys, getting 2 percent in a recent New Hampshire poll and 3 percent in an Iowa poll.

In several polls, Graham got about the same support as retired Gen. Wesley Clark, even though Clark is not a candidate.

Graham also trailed in a unique Web study that counted how often people look up the candidates using Lycos searches. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was first, followed by Sen. John Kerry and Clark. Graham was sixth.

Graham's fundraising has been so weak that an Associated Press story last week speculated that he "may be forced from the race unless he improves his fundraising totals in the next three months."

But Graham aides say his late entry into the race - he launched his candidacy May 6 after recovering from heart surgery - has forced them to focus on assembling staff and identifying key donors.

"Our finance organization wasn't up and running until late in the second quarter," said Steve Jarding, a Graham strategist. He said the campaign was on target with its financial goals.

Money not only fuels campaigns, it also is a barometer of support. Many donors do not place bets on long shots, preferring candidates that they believe have a good chance of winning.

The surprise in the money race has been Dean, who raised $7.6-million in the past three months, largely from Internet contributions, for a total of $10.5-million. Kerry continues to be the front-runner, with about $13.3-million raised so far, plus $2.7-million he transferred from his Senate account.

Sen. John Edwards has raised $11.9-million this year, Rep. Richard Gephardt has raised about $9.8-million, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman has raised $8.2-million. Kucinich raised $1.7-million, compared with $217,000 for Moseley Braun and $137,000 for Sharpton.

On the Republican side, the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign reported $34.4-million in the second quarter, more than all Democrats combined in the same period.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said he had expected Graham, former chairman of the fundraising group for Democratic Senate candidates, to raise more money. "This was supposed to be the quarter where he showed his muscle," Rothenberg said.

Marvin Rosen, Graham's finance chairman, said that many fundraising events are planned for the senator in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and that the campaign will have enough money by the end of the year.

"In order to run an effective campaign, you need to have at least $15- to $20-million," Rosen said. "We will be in that range.

The campaign's latest report with the Federal Election Commission, filed late Tuesday night, indicates that Graham made a last-minute transfer of $150,000 to his presidential campaign from the Friends of Bob Graham Committee, his Senate account.

It was made on June 30, the last day of the quarter. Without that transfer, Graham would have been below the $2-million threshold.

Graham was heavily dependent on Florida donors, who accounted for $1.2-million, or 62 percent of his individual contributions.

The report also provides the first glimpse into how he is spending his campaign money. He spent $135,500 on polling, $187,487 on consultants and $43,329 on lawyers.

Jarding said the Graham campaign has gained momentum in the past two weeks.

Graham's NASCAR truck team won its first race 10 days ago, earning him lots of press coverage. He has won a key endorsement from a former state legislator in Virginia and tonight has events in Roanoke, Va., with NASCAR drivers and bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley.

"I think in the last week or 10 days, we have turned the corner," Jarding said. "You can feel the excitement building."

-Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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