Bush Explains Campaign Spending

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - As he fights for his political survival in South Carolina, Texas Governor George W Bush is working overtime in an effort to explain how his presidential campaign has managed to spend nearly $50 million with only the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary decided thus far.

Since his 19-point New Hampshire loss to Arizona Senator John McCain, Bush has spent more than $3 million in South Carolina where that state's primary will be held on Saturday.

Bush's spending to date has left the governor with an estimated $20 million for the remainder of the campaign which still has five months to go.

Much of the money has been spent on a large-scale television campaign in some 14 states, many of which will hold primaries March 7th and March 14th.

The South Carolina spending limit is $1.5 million per candidate. Bush is able to spend more since he is not taking federal matching funds.

"We've got a plan in place that's going to allow me to stay in the race for the long run," Bush said following a Hilton Head appearance.

Karen Hughes, the campaign's communications director, insisted the campaign was right on track since the $50 million spent to date went in large part to pre-pay advertising that will air in coming months in numerous states. Hughes said the campaign always had a contingency spending plan should Bush lose the New Hampshire primary, which he did.

Despite his extensive expenditures, Bush is still in better shape than McCain, who had spent an estimated $20 million by the end of January and has only $10 million in cash on- hand, half the amount of Bush. Despite having less to spend, McCain has managed to dole out $2.8 million for South Carolina television time and, unlike Bush, McCain is subject to federal spending limits.

The fact that McCain has spent freely for television time has not been ignored by the Bush campaign. Bush staffers point with relish to McCain's apparent violation of the spending caps.

However, McCain staffers counter that their man has actually obeyed the limits since much of the money has gone to buy time in out-of-state markets, including Augusta and Savannah, GA, and Charlotte, NC.

Noting the number of ads and the amounts both camps are spending on them, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Henry McMaster said, "We've never seen anything like it. It's several times more intense than before." McMaster offered a very simple explanation. "The presidential election is going to be decided here on Saturday."

At some $70 million, Bush has managed to raise more money than any other presidential candidate in history and, prior to his New Hampshire loss, many observers considered his ability to raise money as making him nearly invincible in his White House quest.