Another day, another million dollars. Or two.
No, make it three.
So goes the Bush-Cheney reelection fund-raising juggernaut, marching relentlessly toward an all-time record by a presidential campaign.
At a luncheon here Thursday attended by about 650 supporters, most of whom paid $2,000 apiece, President Bush added $1.4 million to his campaign war chest.
Hours later, Laura Bush spoke to 285 donors at a reception in Tyler, Texas, that brought in an additional $275,000. About the same time, the president made his second fund-raising appearance of the day, at a reception in San Antonio, Texas, that earned $1.2 million.
Including a $475,000 fund-raiser Wednesday night in Washington, where the guest of honor was Vice President Dick Cheney, the campaign brought in more than $3.3 million within 24 hours. So far, Bush and Cheney have raised about $90 million for their reelection bid -- and they’re nowhere close to finished.
On Thursday, the White House and the campaign staff announced next month’s fund-raisers. The president will attend at least eight of the events, potentially putting him close, by the end of the month, to breaking the record for a presidential campaign -- which he set in 2000 by raising $101 million.
This time, Bush plans to raise at least $170 million, all for the primary campaign -- even though he faces no contest for the GOP nomination. By opting not to accept federal matching funds during the primary season, Bush can spend as much as he wants. He has said that he will accept federal funds for the general election.
In his Rose Garden news conference Tuesday, the president sounded a bit defensive when confronted with his prodigious fund-raising activities -- even while proclaiming at virtually every such stop, including here and San Antonio, that he has not yet engaged in electioneering.
Bush conceded that, yes, he indeed was “arming -- raising money to wage a campaign.” But he continued to assert that he is not campaigning, saying that there is a difference between “going out to our friends and supporters and saying, ‘Would you mind contributing to the campaign for the year ’04?’ ” and “actually engaging potential opponents in a public discourse in a debate.”
In the meantime, the president said, he and his team intended to “continue to lay the groundwork for the campaign,” such as organizing in the states and gearing up for a get-out-the-vote drive.
“But in terms of the balloon drops and all that business, it will be a little while for me to be catching the confetti, as they say,” Bush said.
He returned Thursday night to his central Texas ranch, which will be his base for a series of day trips in the coming days -- mixing fund-raising for his own reelection bid with official speeches, as well as four appearances Saturday for GOP gubernatorial candidates in Kentucky and Mississippi.
The White House also is considering a quick trip, as early as Tuesday, to Southern California so the president can observe damage caused by the region’s wildfires, but no immediate plans were announced.