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Posted on Tue, Apr. 22, 2003 Bush strategists planning late campaign for 2004

September sprint aims to tie into 9/11


Bush strategists planning late campaign for 2004

WASHINGTON -President Bush's advisers have drafted a re-election strategy built around raising $200 million and staging the latest nominating convention in the Republican Party's history.

The timing will allow Bush to begin his formal campaign near the third anniversary of Sept. 11 and, supporters hope, enhance his fund-raising advantage.

In addition, Bush's advisers say they are prepared to spend as much as twice the $100 million cost of his first campaign on television advertising and other campaign expenses through the primary season that leads up to the Republican convention in September. That would be a record amount of money by a presidential candidate, especially notable because Bush faces no serious opposition for his party's nomination.

The president is planning a sprint of a campaign that would start, at least officially, with his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, now set for Sept. 2.

The convention, to be held in New York City, will be the latest since the Republican Party was founded in 1856, and Bush's advisers said they chose the date so the event would flow into the commemorations marking the third anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

The back-to-back events would frame a campaign that is being built around national security and combating terrorism, Republicans said. Not incidentally, they said they hoped it would deprive the Democratic nominee of news coverage during the opening weeks of the general election campaign.

By scheduling the start of the convention for Aug. 30, a month after Democrats choose their candidate, the White House has put off the imposition of spending ceilings that take effect when the parties officially nominate their candidates.

Under campaign spending laws, candidates who accept public financing will have about $75 million to spend between the nominating conventions and Election Day. Since the Democrats scheduled their convention in late July, the party's candidate will have to stretch the same allocation over a longer time. The nominees of both parties are expected to accept public financing.

The strategy of starting so late and building the campaign around the events in New York is not without risks. Bush's advisers said they were wary of being portrayed as exploiting the trauma of Sept. 11.

In addition, Bush's advisers said they remained worried by the economy's persistent weakness.

But they said the Democratic Party was making a mistake in building its hopes for 2004 on the fate of Bush's father in 1992. The current president, White House officials contend, has already dispensed with his father's biggest problem, the perception that he was out of touch with the nation's economic woes, by pushing his economic program nearly every time he appears in public.

"This isn't 1991," said one of Bush's advisers. "People clearly see this as a chapter in a struggle against a new kind of threat. Al-Qaida is still out there. The security ... issue is going to remain very, very strong."

White House officials, led by Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, are in the midst of an examination of the history of previous re-election campaigns. Since the start of the year, they have interviewed Republicans who have run recent presidential campaigns, reflecting Rove's fascination with political history and the determination of the White House not to repeat what they see as mistakes of past Republican candidates, especially Bush's father in 1992.

Some advisers said they were hopeful the 2004 contest would mirror the 1984 re-election of Ronald Reagan, who loped to an overwhelming victory over Walter Mondale. But other Bush advisers said the more apt model appeared to be Franklin Roosevelt's re-election to a third term over Wendell Willkie in 1940, when the nation was unsettled by the spreading global war and the pressure on the United States to enter the conflict.

The Republican National Committee, at the direction of the White House, has methodically distributed information intended to discredit Bush's possible challengers.

For example, when the Democrat that many of Bush's advisers see as the most likely to win the nomination, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said in New Hampshire that it was time for a "regime change" in the United States, Republican organizations orchestrated attacks on Kerry. That forced Kerry to explain his remarks for a week.

Several said another contender, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, could be the one Democrat who could compete with Bush in the South. But they said he was open to attack both for his close ties with trial lawyers and for his lack of experience in government.,, Charolotte Observer.

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