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The tight spending habits of the Kennedy campaign, which grew out of Sen. Edward Kennedy's lean months earlier in the season, may give the senator a financial advantage as the Democratic National Convention approaches.

In March, for the first time, the Kennedy organization raised nearly as much money as the Carter campaign. And while the President's campaign is on a collision course with the legal spending limit for the primaries, Mr. Kennedy has only spent around half his allotted total.

The limit for spending in the pre-nomination campaigns is $14.7 million. Carter had spend just over $9 million by the end of March -- some $2.5 million in March alone. The Kennedy campaign had spent around $7 million -- $1.6 million in March.

Carter continued to outspend Kennedy heavily in the Pennsylvania primary this past week. Carter had budgeted $750,000 to Kennedy's $450,000 for campaigning there, according reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Carter campaign officials are concerned that, not having "finished off" Kennedy in Pennsylvania, they will be handicapped in the late primaries by the spending ceiling.m

The major Republican contenders are outspending the Democrats so far in the primary campaigns, and Ronald Reagan is outspending the field.

The Reagan campaign had spent $11 million as of April 1, but had sharply cut back its rate of spending in March to $1.7 million for the month -- a rate at which its finances will just squeak through the 21 remaining Republican primaries and the national convention in July. (The convention itself usually costs each candidate several hundred thousand dollars).

George Bush has considerably more spending room, having spent $9.7 million of the allowed $14.7 million.

But, of course, most campaign officials are more concerned with their ability to raise money than with spending the limit before the primaries are over.

The common thread this past week in criticism of Ronald Reagan was the charge that the Republican front-runner is living in the past.

John Anderson, in the announcing on Thursday his tentative independent candidacy, called Reagan a "dangerous" man "largely wedded to the past." He later referred to Reagaon's ideas on the nation's economy as "economics of the ' 40s."

George Bush took this theme several centuries further in a Michigan speech Thursday, saying of Reagan, "You can't set the clock back to Adam Smith or the 18th century. You're living in the 20th."

The same day, an article on Reagan on the front page of The Washington Post was headlined "A Vision of America Frozen in Time."

Meanwhile, following his loss to Bush Tuesday in the Pennsylvania primary popular vote, Reagan went beyond his familiar assessment -- "cautiously optimistic" -- for the first time and said, "I believe I'm going to win the nomination."m

"Anderson has been a fund-raising success story unlike any other since Common Cause 10 years ago," says Roger Craver, who handles the newly "independent" Illnois congressman's direct-mail campaign, as well as fund raising for a host of progressive organizations and candidates.

"It took Common Cause 20 weeks to build a list of 100,000 supporters." Mr. Craver says. "Anderson will reach the 100,000 mark this week, within 10 weeks of direct-mail soliciting."

While anderson will not be eligible for the $29 million in federal funds that go to each of the two major party nominees, he thinks he can mount a "credible" campaign on $10 million or $12 million, which his advisers tell him is within his fund-raising grasp.m

The Anderson campaign is returning $307,000 in unspent federal campaign funds and releasing the 56 Republican delegates he had won in GOP primaries.

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