By Sean Mussenden and Amy T. Silva
ANNAPOLIS – If individual campaign contributions decided the presidential election, Maryland would be handing over its 10 Electoral College votes Tuesday to Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
The Republican presidential nominee raised $1.8 million in Maryland from 2,494 contributors, compared to the $1.5 million that 2,416 donors sent to his Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore.
The fund-raising figures come from Federal Election Commission data on money the campaigns collected in Maryland from Jan. 1, 1999, to Oct. 18, 2000.
But votes — not dollars — are what ultimately counts, and recent surveys give Gore a wide double-digit lead in the state just days before the election.
A late-October poll of 627 self-identified likely voters in Maryland, conducted by Annapolis-based Gonzales/Arscott Research and Communications, gave Gore 52 percent of the vote to Bush’s 38 percent.
Green Party nominee Ralph Nader got 4 percent in the poll while Reform Party hopeful Pat Buchanan got 1 percent. Five percent of voters were undecided in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
But Gore’s apparent strength in Maryland has not stopped Maryland residents from inflating the campaign coffers of both candidates.
While Maryland has the 19th-largest population in the nation, it ranks 14th in total contributions to Bush and seventh in total contributions to Gore, according to fecinfo.com, a private, non-partisan campaign finance watchdog.
Individual donors in Maryland gave Bush $74 more, on average, than the state’s individual donors to Gore. Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland GOP, sees the disparity as a reflection of voters’ frustration with the long-held Democratic control in Maryland.
“It’s their way of voicing dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. They’re frustrated with the Democratic stranglehold on the state,” Ellington said.
But Gore campaign officials in Maryland offered a different explanation.
“It (the GOP) is the party of the rich. As Democrats we expect to be outspent by the Republican party,” said Maurice Daniel, director of the Gore campaign in Maryland.
Third-party candidates did not fare as well when it came to fund raising in the state. Buchanan got 125 contributions totaling $40,940, while Nader raised a total of $35,490 from 67 donors.
Nader fund-raising coordinator Darci Andresen said the FEC figures, which only count contributions above $200, underestimate the real level of support for her candidate in the state.
Claiming to have a high level of contributions under $200 from Marylanders, Andresen said, “I think it shows that this is a true grass-roots campaign.”