TOPICS > Politics

Follow the Money

February 29, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT

MARGARET WARNER: Money has always played a major role in Presidential campaigns. But there are some new wrinkles this year. One is the sheer magnitude of the spending. To explore the consequences of this and other new twists and quirks in the campaign money picture this year we’re joined by two seasoned political hands, Republican consultant Roger Stone, a veteran of Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaigns, managed Sen. Arlen Specter’s bid this time around; Colby College Professor Anthony Corrado managed the money for Democrat Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign, among others. Welcome, gentlemen. Roger Stone, let’s look at the sheer magnitude of this. To date, Bob Dole and Steve Forbes each have spent more than all 11 1992 Presidential contenders had spent at this point last time. Why?

ROGER STONE, Republican Campaign Consultant: Well, I think there was perhaps a miscalculation by everyone in the Republican Party that because all the primaries were so front-loaded and because 75 percent of the delegates will be selected by the end of March that you had to spend your load of money early to score early and try to score an early knockout. Of course, that hasn’t happened, and now each one of these four remaining candidates is in a completely financial strait.

MARGARET WARNER: Tony Corrado, do you have anything to add to that, what has been driving this spending?

ANTHONY CORRADO, Democratic Finance Consultant: (Auburn, Maine) Well, one of the things I would say is that none of these candidates expected that they would be going against a contender like Steven Forbes who could spend virtually unlimited amounts of money and therefore really contest the race from out of nowhere. As a result, Forbes has really served to fuel the spending in this race. While we all knew that it would be expensive because of the compressed schedule of primaries, Steven Forbes forced candidates to spend more money earlier than they wanted to, particularly in December, where a number of candidates, particularly Gramm and Alexander, had to spend a lot more than they wanted on television to prevent Forbes from breaking away, and then more recently Bob Dole has had to significantly increase his spending in order to keep pace with Forbes and to overcome the challenge he now faces in these primaries.

MARGARET WARNER: And so, Roger Stone, Bob Dole is now in a position where this could backfire on him?

MR. STONE: Well, the irony is that I think just as he’s about to begin a pretty significant winning streak, because I think Sen. Dole will win in South Carolina on Saturday, I think he’s very likely to win the junior Tuesday primary in New England, in Georgia, and Colorado on Tuesday. I think he would then be poised to do well in Super Tuesday, just as he is poised for takeoff, he’s also going to bump into the limits, in my view, sometime here in late March. So as he–

MARGARET WARNER: And explain that. There’s a national cap.

MR. STONE: We have a national cap in which each Presidential candidate can spend. Bob Dole’s problem is not the inability to raise more money. It’s the inability to spend more money. That contrasted with say Lamar Alexander, who if he does not get 10 percent of the vote in the South Carolina primary on Saturday by federal law he would lose his eligibility for federal matching funds. In order to get it back, he would have to get 20 percent of the vote in the very next primary, which is the following Tuesday, both in my opinion highly probable, over the first one highly unprobable–highly probable and the second one unlikely. So he may be the first candidate financially to flame out here.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, I want to get back to Alexander, but let’s just finish up with Dole and Forbes. Tony Corrado, what is your estimate of how much more actually Bob Dole can spend? What can he actually spend in the month of March before he basically taps out against this $37 million limit?

MR. CORRADO: Well, Bob Dole had already spent about $25 million by the end of February, and he’s now–

MARGARET WARNER: Isn’t that the end of January?

MR. CORRADO: Oh, that’s the end of January, and then I estimate that he has spent another $4 million to $5 million in the month of February. So he’s right up around $30 million now, and he’s facing a series of primaries here in the next 14 days that are very expensive. Even minimal television buys are going to cost him another million to a million five. And I expect that he is going to be in a position where he will only have 3 or 4 million dollars left to spend in the second half of March, and, therefore, he is going to be the first Presidential candidate who is going to face a very serious limit problem because even if he does well, as Roger just noted, and wraps this up by the third week of March or so and finishes those off in California, he’s going to be sitting there at the first week of April with essentially no more room to spend money. And he has to go all the way to August to his convention before he can refuel, and he’s going to be facing a Bill Clinton, who will still have at least $10 million to spend through the last couple of months of the primaries, and that will be a significant advantage.

MARGARET WARNER: I read today, Roger Stone, that Forbes said he’s going to spend a million dollars on TV just next week just in New York. Is there anything Dole can do to try to match Forbes’ spending, or is he absolutely hamstrung by these limits?

MR. STONE: I don’t think there’s anything Forbes can do–pardon me–Dole–


MR. STONE: –can do. But I think there are things that can be done for Dole. For example, when Forbes surged in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, the realtors, the home builders, others who recognized that the flat tax plan would be very threatening to their livelihood, stepped forward and educated voters about those plans with radio, with television, with mailings. Now, New York State has the highest income taxes in the United States. Under the Forbes flat tax plan, those taxes would not be deductible on the federal return. I believe a number of the tax groups, the realtors, the home builders, are going to step forward and they’re going to educate the voters. Now, Dole will be the beneficiary to that. It’s not done with his direction or his coordination, but others will step forward to fill this void, in my opinion.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that can be enough, Tony Corrado?

MR. CORRADO: Well, it may be enough, but we also have to remember that Pat Buchanan is still in this race, and Buchanan is finally in the best financial position that he has ever been in in his two Presidential races. He has a very strong direct mail fund-raising base, and has been raising significant amounts of money, especially from conservative activists, Christian evangelicals, and gun owners who give small contributions that are matched with matching funds, so that he’s in a position now where he can still outspend Bob Dole by 10 to 15 million dollars, and I think he’s capable of raising that money, and that is going to stretch Dole even further because Dole is going to have to be fending off the Pat Buchanan attacks. He is in a situation where he’s not just running against Steve Forbes. He’s still running against a multi-candidate field, and that’s the biggest financial predicament he faces now.

MARGARET WARNER: And what is your assessment, Roger Stone, of Buchanan’s financial picture? Do you agree with Tony?

MR. STONE: Partially. Pat Buchanan’s got a broad financial base of about 125,000 donors nationally, and they will continue to give as long as Pat continues to provide success; however, if he does not win in South Carolina, if he does not win in Colorado or Georgia or some of the New England states, if he does not win on Super Tuesday in the South, you’ll start to see diminishing returns. He will still raise money but not at the clip that he has been raising it, because it’s all been based on his surprise success in New Hampshire. So I think that Buchanan has sort of a Catch-22 situation. He can spend 15 million more dollars if he can raise them but he can only raise them if he provides political success, and that means victory in some of these primaries.

MARGARET WARNER: And Tony Corrado, finally, let’s go back to the point that Roger made earlier about Lamar Alexander, who has to get at least 10 percent in South Carolina to even continue qualifying for matching funds. What is your assessment of Alexander’s financial picture right now?

MR. CORRADO: Well, by far, Lamar Alexander is in the weakest financial position of all of these candidates. In fact, he is the one who is suffering most from this unforgiving process that he is involved in. He cannot capitalize on the early victories, or not really victories, but at least moral victories that he received in Iowa and New Hampshire because the time is so tight. Even though he’s raising $100,000 to $200,000 a day by his own campaign estimates, he’s in a process that is much more expensive than that. So he has had to pick and choose the states he can campaign in, and he has not been able to really take advantage of that early push that he got from the Iowa and New Hampshire races, and, therefore, he is really living hand to mouth. He is in what I call a cash flow nightmare, where his campaign is looking at how much money cleared the bank today and how much can we spend. And if he does not win soon, and I mean by Georgia, he is probably going to see most of his resources dry up, and he’ll be forced to leave the race.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, gentlemen, both of you, thanks very much. We have to leave it there.