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Democrats, Kerry camp report robust fund raising

But Bush, GOP still far ahead in money race

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Democratic Party and its all-but-official nominee for the White House announced Friday that they have broken fund-raising records in recent months, helping stock the barrels for the campaign to oust President Bush.

Bush, meanwhile, lauded a different set of numbers: figures from the Labor Department showing stronger-than-expected job growth. Visiting the battleground state of West Virginia, the president hailed what he described as a "strong" economy, saying his tax-cut policies had helped spur growth.(Full story)

Democratic Sen. John Kerry was off the campaign trail, recuperating at his home in Boston, Massachusetts, from shoulder surgery. (Full story) But his campaign eagerly passed out word about its fund raising.

Kerry's intake through the end of March makes him the first nonincumbent presidential candidate in history to pull in more than $50 million in a single quarter, the campaign said. The campaign did not provide an exact figure.

The Kerry campaign "has over $75 million in receipts to date and is more than halfway to the $80 million goal set for 2004," the statement said.

Kerry has also pulled in more money online than any other candidate in history, with $26.7 million raised in the first quarter of 2004 and $2.6 million pulled in on March 4 after his Super Tuesday successes, the campaign said. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a former Democratic presidential contender, led the charge in tapping the Internet for campaign funds, something other candidates have also turned to.

Bush dwarfs Dems

Still, Bush's war chest easily eclipses Kerry's. The Bush-Cheney campaign has remained above the $100 million mark through repeated cycles of heavy spending on advertisements. Millions have been raised in single days as Bush traveled to attend fund-raising events in recent months.

Bush also benefits from taxpayer-funded trips billed as official White House events.

The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, announced Friday that its fund raising, which had been "projected to fall sharply with the passage of McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform," has reached "record pace."

One part of the campaign-finance law is a ban on so-called soft money, or unlimited and unregulated contributions to national political parties.

"In the first quarter of 2004, the DNC raised more than $27 million, beating the $26.9 million raised in the first quarter of 2000, when Democrats occupied the White House and were allowed to raise large, unlimited donations" that included soft money, the party said in a written statement.

The DNC reported it has no debt and about $26 million in cash on hand.

Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the figures show "the strength of a unified and energized Democratic Party," which is "more motivated and better prepared than we've ever been."

But a spokeswoman with the Republican National Committee said the RNC beat the DNC's fund raising.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson told CNN the committee pulled in $48.1 million for the first quarter of 2004, and $18.4 million in March alone.

The RNC has $54 million cash on hand with no debt, she said.

In other developments:

  • Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader reached out to Republican voters Friday, calling on them to join him in rejecting Bush and the GOP. In an "open letter" to conservatives, Nader excoriated Republicans in Washington for "fiscal irresponsibility on a scale that, to them, would have been unimaginable even for Democrats."

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