Bradley, Gore on equal financial footing

By Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press, 01/10/00

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential contenders Bill Bradley and Al Gore are beginning the year on nearly equal financial footing, each with more than $16 million on hand.

Much of it could be gone by spring.

"I see a fight to the end and then a period of silence because they'll spend so much, they won't have money left," said one campaign finance expert, Herbert Alexander, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Southern California.

Bradley had more money in his campaign bank account at the end of the year, $8.3 million compared with $5.2 million for Gore. But the vice president was approved for more federal funds than Bradley, $11.1 million versus $8.3 million. Since then, Bradley has asked for an additional $1.8 million and Gore has requested an additional $1 million.

"It's going to be easy for these guys just to keep spending in order to survive from one primary date to another," Alexander said.

The government matches the first $250 of each individual contribution to candidates who agree to limit their spending. In 2000, the limit will be around $40 million.

Four years ago, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole reached the spending limit months before the party convention, while President Clinton's campaign was able to keep spending millions of dollars on TV commercials. This year, the Democrats could be up against the limit until their convention while Republican front-runner George W. Bush, who is not taking federal funds, keeps spending.

Bradley campaign officials declined to speculate on what would happen if they reached the spending limits.

"We're really concerned with what we can do to go get through Iowa and New Hampshire and be successful through the rest of the process," campaign spokesman Tony Wyche said. "We're out to win the Democratic primaries and we have the resources and the message to do that."

Gore spokesman Chris Lehane did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Democratic political consultant Glenn Totten said Gore may not have to match Bradley dollar-for-dollar to win the nomination. While Bradley has as big a bank account as Gore, the vice president also has dozens of IOUs that he can redeem for support during the primaries, Totten said.

"It is not the money that makes Al Gore formidable, it is the war chest of political favors he has been doing for the last eight years," Totten said. "It is an asset that is intangible. That war chest that is going to help Al Gore through this process."