Who'll Beat Back the Fiercely Earning Bush?

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If George W. Bush keeps this up, he could save Medicare all by himself. The dynastic Republican darling announced Wednesday that his presidential campaign has raised $36.3 million in just four months, smashing by half all previous records for political campaigns (and dwarfing the $20 million raised by the rest of the GOP field combined). Which may mean that the rest of the Republican field -- except, of course, Steve Forbes, who takes care of that sort of fund-raising at the ATM -– just started running for veep. "There’s just no money left out there for anyone else," says TIME congressional correspondent Jay Carney. "For second-tier candidates like Lamar Alexander, it’s already over."

The mountains of money are not all good news for Bush. Sure, the GOP fat cats gave Bush all the money, but every penny also strengthens John McCain’s hand. McCain can still compete with Bush in the face-time wars because he’s a senator and the press likes him, and he’s made campaign-finance reform his primary bugaboo. In New Hampshire on Wednesday, McCain (a distant GOP second with $4 million) opened with a screed against "an elaborate influence-peddling scheme in which both parties conspire to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder." McCain has been tilting at that windmill for years, but believe it or not, polls are showing that people are actually starting to care. What better foil than the up-to-his-forelock-in-cash Bush? But let’s not get carried away -- Bush’s campaign people, who are pathological underestimators, say their man will probably raise and spend some $70 million before this is over. With a war chest like that, John McCain knows better than anyone that it probably already is.