Trailing Sen. Bob Graham by more than $2-million in campaign money and 40 points in the polls, Republican Bill Grant on Tuesday blamed the head of a GOP money-raising committee for withholding cash for his race.
Grant said he expected $1.1-million from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed by Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, to boost his underdog campaign against the Democratic incumbent. The Republican committee has $15-million that it plans to spend on the most winnable of 35 U.S. Senate races.
"The fact is Phil and I are having a disagreement and a fight over whether or not we can win this race," Grant said. "He's the one withholding the money."
Grant accused Gramm of using the Senate campaign committee money to advance his aspirations to run for president in 1996. Grant said the Texas senator wants to spend money on smaller states where a Republican has a chance at winning.
"It's a lot cheaper to run a race in South Dakota than it is in Florida," Grant said. "My reasoning is you got most of your money from Florida. No one told Floridians their candidate wasn't going to get the money."
Grant said he asked President Bush in Florida on Saturday to intervene with Gramm. He also said he called Republican National Committee co-chairwoman Jeanie Austin, GOP mega-money raiser Alec Courtelis of Miami and Jeb Bush, the president's son.
Gramm's spokesman said if Grant does not get the money, it will be because the committee determined he can't win.
"It's simply worth noting that the Republican Senatorial Committee is not in the business of throwing away money," said Larry Neal. "It is in the business of investing in viable candidates and making sure that they have the best chance of winning."
Wendy Burnley, a spokeswoman for the GOP committee, said targets are picked based on polls of the race, the candidates' ability to raise money on their own and the vulnerability of the Democratic opponent.
Grant's most recent campaign finance report showed cash on hand of $830 compared with Graham's $2.2-million. Grant says he has fund-raisers scheduled, but he is not now paying staff members. He drives his Jeep Cherokee around the state instead of flying as statewide candidates conventionally do. One poll showed him trailing Graham by 46 points; others have shown him a little closer.
"It appears he's had trouble generating enthusiasm for his campaign, both in Florida and nationally," said Jay Hakes, Graham's campaign manager. "One problem is the runner-up (Rob Quartel) said he wouldn't vote for a Democrat and wouldn't vote for a pro-life Republican."
Grant surprised observers when he won the nomination convincingly over Quartel and another candidate while running a shoestring campaign powered by volunteers.
"If we don't get the money from Phil, we don't get on TV," he said.
J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who ran two gubernatorial campaigns for Republican Bob Martinez, said any unknown candidate has to rely on TV to get out a message.
"Given the fact that Florida is a media state and the cost of the media, an underdog candidate who is also underfunded is at a serious disadvantage," he said.
Meanwhile, Grant took a shot at Graham for his vote on the cable TV regulatory bill. Grant said the senator should have abstained from voting because he owns stock in the Washington Post, which owns TV stations. Hakes said Graham sold his interest in the media company four years ago.