McCain Says Late Fundraising Start Will Hurt Him

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is lowering fundraising expectations, just days before the first money deadline that will provide a clear sign about which
candidates are viable - and which ones are not.

During a bus tour of New Hampshire's rural North Country,
reporters asked McCain about the ever-important money race, in
which donations translate into credibility. The deadline for
candidates to report their first-quarter fundraising is just days
away, on March 31.

"We started late, our money raising, and we're going to pay a
price for it because we got off to a late start," McCain said
Saturday between campaign stops. "I enjoy this kind of politics
more than I enjoy raising money."

McCain's admission is surprising for a top-tier GOP candidate.
Rivals have been racing from fundraiser to fundraiser to show they
have the millions for a presidential bid. Rudy Giuliani has been
holding fundraisers around the country and former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney raised $6.5 million in a single day in January.

Romney has already purchased $800,000 in television air time.
McCain, who got off to an early start with the announcement of
an exploratory committee last year, was considered the GOP
front-runner. Since then, public opinion polls have shown Giuliani,
the former New York City mayor, with a double-digit lead.

McCain said he has no idea what kind of cash the other campaigns
will offer. The Arizona senator has hosted only four campaign
fundraisers since forming the exploratory committee in December.
The campaign said he has about 40 scheduled before the start of

McCain argues there's still time left in the current Federal
Election Commission reporting period that ends March 31. He plans a
last push, but his staff declines to offer any predictions.

"This is a campaign that is focused on winning the nomination,
and fundraising throughout the entire year is an important part of
that," said spokesman Danny Diaz. "We're focused on building an
organization in the critical states so we can communicate the
senator's conservative message to voters on his behalf."

McCain has staffed his campaign with high-profile veterans, many
of whom helped get President Bush re-elected in 2004. He is paying
his top political adviser $15,000 a month - a rate considered
standard. But he delayed his announcement tour until April, in part
to put off the costs to the next quarter.

He entered the race with about $492,500 from his Senate account,
according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Strategists from both parties predict the 2008 campaign could
cost each major party's nominee $500 million.