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Inside Politics

Dean's fund-raising success

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

Howard Dean has mastered the Internet when it comes to fund raising.

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(CNN) -- Now that third-quarter campaign fund-raising results are in, the political Play of the Week doesn't go to the candidate who's raised the most money. (That would be President Bush.) It goes to the candidate who's doing the most to change the system.

Who's winning the money chase?

The top Democrat is Howard Dean, with nearly $15 million in the third quarter. That's close to half of the $34 million raised by all nine Democrats together.

But that's only good for second place, because Bush -- who doesn't even have a primary challenger -- raised a cool $50 million more than all the Democrats together.

What's interesting is how Dean raised his money.

About 169,000 people gave Dean money. Their average contribution was about $74.

Bush had 262,000 contributors, who gave on average, $280 each.

So Bush wins again, right? Maybe not.

"We have so many supporters across the country who are giving small amounts, and most of them have the ability to give to us again, or to find friends or co-workers or family to give to us in the future," says Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager.

Trippi is proud of the fact that, each quarter this year, the average size of Dean's campaign contributions has been getting smaller, while the total has been going up.

Trippi sees a sharp contrast with the Bush campaign.

"The Bush donors are being hauled off to big dinners and being bundled into these huge amounts. Our donors are giving a small amount, but there are so many of them that it adds up," Trippi said.

It adds up to more money than any Democrat -- including President Clinton in 1996 -- has ever raised in a single quarter.

And since the maximum campaign contribution is $2,000, the Dean campaign can go back to its small donors again .and again.

The Bush campaign has big shots -- "Rangers" and "Pioneers" who raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from friends and co-workers.

The Dean campaign works differently.

"It's apparently bringing in people who haven't before contributed and who haven't before been connected with campaigns. And so, in a sense, it's aimed perfectly at a new generation of potential voters and a new generation of contributors," said Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics.

How do they do it?

The Internet.

Dean raised $7.4 million on the Internet this quarter which is about half his total.

By comparison, Bush raised about $1.5 million on the Internet which is only 17 percent of his total.

In a recent speech Dean said, "My campaign is about empowering people."

And the Internet is how he does it.

"There's only one medium in the world that allows two million Americans to contribute $100 in one day if they decide to do it, and that's the Internet," Trippi said.

Al Gore may have invented the Internet, but Joe Trippi figured out how to make it pay off politically. For that, he gets the political Play of the Week.

Dean could become the first Democrat to opt out of the public funding system for the primaries. That will enable him to spend competitively with Bush, who has already indicated he will opt out of public funding.

It's the law of unintended consequences at work: The Internet kills off public funding.

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