Washington George W. Bush spent more than $40 million trying to reach voters through advertising, mail and telephone, nearly as much as Al Gore doled out for his entire campaign during the presidential primaries, an analysis of campaign spending records show.
The study of campaign spending through July 31 shows that Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, spent $43 million on efforts to reach voters, including $25 million on television and radio ads.
Democrat Gore spent just $14 million on similar voter-targeted activity.
"It is clear that our priority in the primary and our priority today is to inform and educate and reach out to voters all across the country," Bush campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said.
Campaign strategists say the spending spree should give Bush an edge with voters for the fall campaign, when each candidate will be limited to spending $67.6 million in federal funds.
"You are building brand familiarity," said former Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., an adviser to Bush's campaign. "It's very much like automobile advertising. People don't focus on buying a car until they buy a car but by then the advertising has had an impact on their decision."
But Democratic media consultant Glenn Totten questioned whether Bush got his money's worth. Recent national polls show him in a dead heat with the vice president.
"After spending $25 million on television and having spent some of that money attacking both Mr. Gore's and President Clinton's agenda, he should be enjoying a much more substantial lead," Totten said. "If you can outspend your opponent by more than 2 to 1, you ought to be in awfully good shape, and he's not."
Bush also spent millions identifying potential supporters, building lists of voters to call or write during the fall to get them to the polls.
"You put them on a telephone list and a mail list," said James Thurber, director of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "You use e-mail, telephones, fax and U.S. mail. You want to get these lists of supporters you can motivate late in the campaign."
According to the Campaign Study Group, a nonpartisan organization that compiles and analyzes finance data for news organizations, Gore spent $46 million on his successful primary campaign through the end of July -- including $11 million on advertising.
And despite Bush's advantage in fund raising, Gore spent nearly as much on campaign overhead, such as salaries and operating expenses, as the Texas governor. The vice president spent $16 million on campaign operations compared to $18 million for Bush, the analysis showed.
As the first major party nominee to shun federal matching funds and spending limits for the primaries, Bush was allowed to spend as much money as he could bring in.
He raised $100 million and spent a record $93 million through the end of July -- more than double Gore's expenditures. The vice president's spending was restricted since he abided by federal spending limits and received $15 million in federal campaign funds.
Bush also dwarfed Gore's spending on fund raising -- $18 million to just $8 million for the vice president, the analysis showed.
Gore campaign spokesman Douglas Hattaway said he wasn't concerned about Bush's spending.
"The message matters more than money," he said. "Al Gore is the one who's going to use our prosperity wisely to benefit everyone, not just the few. Bush can run all the ads he wants but he's wrong on the issues and can't hide that."