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Interview With Ron Brownstein

Aired July 16, 2003 - 19:32   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Talking about money and politics now, Senator John Kerry, king of the hill among Democratic presidential hopefuls and money raised so far this year. But his war chest still looks like a -- well, like a piggy bank compared to President Bush's. The campaigns had to crunch their quarterly numbers and report to the government by midnight last night. They did it.
CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley looks at who's giving to whom.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politicians and wonks read the fund-raising numbers like goat entrails to predict the future -- who's up, who's down, who will win?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have the power to take back the Democratic Party.

CROWLEY: This quarter, up is Howard Dean, who raised the most of any Democrat. Note from the Kerry campaign, he still has the most cash on hand.

Down this quarter, Richard Gephardt, who did not meet his own fund-raising goals. And losing your own expectations game is a donor downer.

Also in the outs category, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton were outraised by everybody, including Lyndon LaRouche.

That said, some people read FEC numbers for the entertainment value.

BARBRA STREISAND (singing): People who need people...

CROWLEY: Putting her money where her mouth is, Barbra Streisand has contributed to the campaigns of John Kerry, John Edwards, Richard Gephardt, Bob Graham, and Howard Dean. Not a penny for Joe Lieberman, Mr. V-Chip.

Overall, in the glitz race, the gold goes to Howard Dean.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: How much money have we raised? Let's look at the tote board.

CROWLEY: Robin Williams, an enthusiastic donor of years past, Ted Danson, Susan Sarandon, Paul Newman, Stephen King, and Alec Baldwin are all Deanies.

The president is not without star appeal, in a retro kind of way.

ANDY WILLIAMS (singing): Moon river...

CROWLEY: Crooner Andy Williams, game show host Wink Martindale, and Chuck Norris, who is not a Texas ranger but plays one on TV, all rang it up for Bush-Cheney.

The stars may shine brighter in the Democrats' books, but they'll need to assemble a cast of thousands to bridge the '04 financial gap. Bottom line in this past quarter, George Bush raised $34.4 million in six weeks, more than the total raised by nine Democrats in three months.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Didn't know Wink Martindale was a Bush man.

So how much does it cost to put a president in office? And why is it so expensive?

CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The L.A. Times" is in our Washington bureau. Ron, thanks very much.


COOPER: I'm not going to ask you about Wink Martindale. Let's talk, though, about Democrats, though. Who is in the lead, both in terms of money and, I guess, in terms of polls?

BROWNSTEIN: When you look at it overall, I think the two people who are standing the tallest after these results came out are Howard Dean and John Kerry. John Kerry raised the most money overall in the first six months of the year, and, as Candy mentioned, has the most cash on hand.

And Howard Dean really is the most remarkable story out of these fund-raising numbers. He comes from Vermont, which is not exactly a hotbed of big money donors. He was virtually unknown nationally before he began this race.

And he raised more money, significantly more money, than anybody else in the second quarter, and tapped a significant new source in the process, having the most success, really, of any presidential candidate ever in raising money off the Internet.

So I think those two look the strongest when you combine these fund-raising numbers with the polling numbers. They look like the class of the field right now.

COOPER: Yes, and I want to talk about the Internet influence in just a moment. But let's just quickly talk about the losers. I mean, who's piggy bank is empty right now, or close to it? BROWNSTEIN: Well, well, Dick Gephardt has a lot of cash on hand. In that sense, his piggy bank isn't empty. But he did not raise nearly as much money as you'd expect for someone who has been involved in national politics as he has, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: And by the way, Ron...

BROWNSTEIN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) organized labor...

COOPER: ... I'm sorry to jump in, Ron...


COOPER: Sorry to jump in. But I read an article that Dick Gephardt, like, I mean, he spends like eight hours on the phone on some days just trying to raise money.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it is, it is -- look, this is a brutal task. The contribution limit was raised to $2,000 in this election. It used to e $1,000. But that's still a long way to go to get to the $20 or $25 million they're trying to raise this year. I mean, that's a lot of individual contributions.

And the fact that Gephardt is having trouble raising that money suggests that there's a lot of -- there's still a lot of skepticism among party insiders about whether he has what it takes to go all the way to the nomination and beat George Bush.

COOPER: And this is what...

BROWNSTEIN: Joe Lieberman also is a little bit disappointing.

COOPER: That's what makes Howard Dean's money, Internet money, so remarkable, is, I mean, this is from tens of thousands of people, not all of whom gave up to the $2,000. So it's theoretically -- that's still sort of a resource he could tap.

BROWNSTEIN: Almost no one who has contributed to Howard Dean has maxed out, as they say, given all the way up to $2,000, especially on the Internet. He had 45,000 Internet donors in the second quarter -- a remarkable number -- raised $3.6 million, about half his total.

And of those, less than 100 have given all they can give. So Howard Dean can go back to them again, especially, Anderson, imagine if he does better than expected in Iowa or wins New Hampshire, his ability to harvest that list for quick money, almost all of which will be matchable by the federal matching funds, would be enormous.

So he may have found (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a way to keep himself financially viable all the way through the race, which, as I said, is remarkable given where he started as a governor from not a particularly large affluent state who had no national presence.

COOPER: All right. We're going to watch this thing closely. Ron Brownstein, thanks very much tonight.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.


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