John Kerry cut his campaign spending sharply last month in an effort to stretch $75-million in government money, 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 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. Kerry's August spending compares with $36-million in July when he could 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.
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 fundraising, just more than a month after Kerry's nomination put an end to his.
Both parties are aggressively raising money. 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 fundraising letter sent last week.
Kerry and Bush can assist the party fundraising efforts, though they can no longer raise campaign money for themselves. Both headlined party fundraisers in New York on Monday; Kerry helped the DNC raise $4-million, while the RNC took in $3-million.
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.
Kerry appears on "Regis,' "Dr. Phil,' Letterman
NEW YORK _ Why did it take so long for the Bush and Kerry campaigns to agree on a debate schedule? Sen. John Kerry had the answer for television's Regis Philbin, who has hosted the quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
"The big hang-up was George Bush wanted to get life lines, you know, so he could call somebody," the Democratic candidate for president quipped Tuesday while on Live With Regis and Kelly.
Contestants on the quiz show can contact a knowledgeable friend for help if they are unsure of an answer.
Kerry has been making the rounds of talks shows, taping a broadcast of Dr. Phil last week (Bush taped a segment in July) and appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman Monday night. His "Top 10 Bush Tax Proposals" for Letterman included allowing Vice President Dick Cheney to claim Bush as a dependent.
CHENEY STUMPS IN OHIO: At the Fulton County Fairgrounds in Wauseon, Ohio, Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sen. John Kerry has changed positions on the war in Iraq at least nine times. The crowd then started chanting, "flip-flop, flip-flop."