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Dean taps into Internet for campaign contributions

Democrats compete in fund-raising

From Robert Yoon
CNN Political Unit

Howard Dean gestures to supporters at a recent rally.
Howard Dean gestures to supporters at a recent rally.

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Interactive: The Democratic field 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has raised $6 million in the last three months for his White House bid, more than one-third of which came from online contributions received in the past eight days, his campaign said.

The figure puts him atop the Democratic field in fund-raising.

Although Dean leads the field in fund-raising based on current estimates, that could change when the final reports are filed. Campaigns often underestimate or "low-ball" their fund-raising in order to lower expectations and generate positive coverage if and when they exceed that amount.

Dean's campaign strategy has relied more on Internet word-of-mouth than any other major presidential campaign in history.

In an e-mail sent Saturday night to campaign supporters, Dean called the fund-raising feat "an incredible milestone," and urged contributors to dig deeper into their pockets and raise an additional $500,000 by midnight Monday, the Federal Election Commission's deadline to raise money for the second quarter.

Detailed financial reports are due to the FEC by July 15.

"We have already raced past all expectations. We now have the opportunity to truly shock the press and the pundits with our show of grassroots strength," said Dean in his online pitch. "If we raise $6.5 million in the second quarter, we will have placed our candidacy irrefutably in the top tier, and we will transform the dynamic of this race."

Despite Dean's better-than-expected showing this quarter, he and his rivals for the Democratic nomination are all likely to be dwarfed by the sole Republican in the race.

President George W. Bush netted an additional $5.1 million for his re-election effort Friday from a pair of events in California, moving the campaign closer to its goal of raising between $27 million to $30 million by Monday night.

Fund-raising estimates provided by a number of Democratic sources previously had Dean raising $3.5 million to $4.5 million, below the three-month take of $5 million expected by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who led the Democratic field in fund-raising at the end of March with $7.5 million, and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri are each expected to have raised between $4 million and $5 million.

Campaign sources close to Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said the 2000 vice presidential nominee is "aiming for $4 million."

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida is expected to raise $2 million to $3 million.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio is expected to raise more than $1 million.

No estimates were available for the remainder of the Democratic field: the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois.

Dean's fund-raising was near $3.2 million more than a week ago, the campaign said.

Despite having to temporarily sideline his campaign to deal with his 17-year-old son's alleged involvement in a break-in at a Burlington, Vermont, country club, and after what was widely viewed as a shaky appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Dean generated enough media coverage of his official campaign kick-off event last Monday and his victory Friday in an online "primary" sponsored by the liberal advocacy group to beef up his campaign coffers by an additional $2.8 million over eight days.

Once the numbers are in, the campaigns are likely to debate which figures are more important: the amount raised, or the amount of ready cash available to the campaign.

"The most important number out of the first six months is how much money you have in the bank, how much money do you have to compete with," said Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs, before Dean's revised fund-raising estimates were announced. "We believe we're likely to be ahead of where we thought we would be only six months ago, and with enough money in the bank to win the nomination next year."

Kerry had more than $8 million in the bank at the start of April, the most of any Democratic candidate. At the same point, Dean had slightly more than $2 million, at least $300,000 of which has gone to a statewide television ad campaign in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. Dean is the only presidential candidate currently airing television ads.

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