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Cash and Kerry

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Robert Zimmerman, a DNC member from New York and a top Kerry fund-raiser, underscores the urgency of the moment by recounting a recent conversation with a senior GOP consultant. “The guy said, ‘You haven’t seen shock and awe until you’ve seen $200 million in attack ads,’ ” Zimmerman says. “He’s right. If Kerry’s going to succeed in the battleground states, we have to mobilize the New York donor community quickly and deliver our own shock-and-awe campaign in return. The battle begins here.”

The spoils, of course, are huge. In 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Al Gore raised more money in New York than any place other than Washington, D.C., the company town of politics.

“The rallying cry of Democratic donors is “ABB”—Anybody But Bush. They see his occupancy of the White House as a national emergency.”

The rallying cry of Democratic donors is “ABB”—Anybody But Bush. They hate the future-mortgaging tax cuts, the unjustified Iraq invasion, the WMD dissembling, the flight suit, the hardball politics, the hard-right politics, you name it. They see his continued occupancy of the White House as a national emergency. And that, they say, has made electability, more than policy, the quality that matters most in choosing his opponent.

Kerry supporters are hoping that ABB syndrome will get the big-money types behind him. They maintain Kerry has proved himself the party’s best shot. He’s got broad-based appeal among Democratic voters—a must in a close general election. His war record gives him cover to assail the commander-in-chief’s national-security strategy. While his voting record has its lefty soft spots, it’s unclear whether the GOP’s planned “liberal, liberal, liberal” assault will work on a former prosecutor and decorated veteran. Several polls already show him ahead of Bush. And if the donors did rally round, Kerry could be somewhat competitive in the cash department because he’s passed on federal matching funds—allowing him to raise an unlimited sum until the convention.

Given all that, the argument concludes, the big-money donors should quit hedging their bets and just get behind him.

Rampant ABB has led some to note that even if the race for the Democratic nomination does drag on, the big money will coalesce behind the winner eventually. “The No. 1 objective of virtually every Democrat of any consequence is to defeat the present president,” says Mel Weiss, a plaintiff’s lawyer and big contributor who’s undecided. “The donors will all jump onboard with the nominee big-time, whoever he is.” The danger, of course, is that it will be too little too late. Which is exactly what Karl Rove is banking on.


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