Mr. Cardoso of the PSDB party has declared to a government committee that his election ad fund totals $75 million, largely from company donations; main rival Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, president of the Workers Party, can muster only $20 million for ads before the Oct. 3 election.
Hobbling both candidates are draconian new ad rules designed to avoid a repetition of Brazil's last, disastrous presidential election five years ago. Then, an unknown politician, Fernando Collor de Mello, combined his telegenic personality with a lavish ad campaign to clinch the presidency. His forced resignation two years ago on the eve of impeachment proceedings for corruption left Brazilians feeling deeply deceived.
Itamar Franco, who then was appointed as president, is not running for the office.
There are no limits on spending, and TV time is provided free to the presidential candidates, allottedaccording to the number of seats their parties hold in Parliament (Mr. Cardoso gets more than twice as much time as Mr. Lula da Silva).
But the government has put into place strict rules. It has banned animation, computer graphics, any special effects and the appearance of anyone other than the candidate in TV spots.
In his commercials, created by free-lance consultant Paulo de Tarso Santos, Mr. Lula da Silva has swapped the coveralls he wore in previous campaigns to show solidarity with workers for a tie. Even so, he is still using the popular "Lula-la" (meaning put "Lula there" in the presidency) slogan that almost took him to the presidency in 1989.
The former factory worker's main priorities are jobs and housing for the unemployed and homeless. Brazil's business community remains wary because he favors greater state ownership and control of the economy, while Mr. Cardoso wants more privatization.
Mr. Cardoso is gaining momentum. As finance minister, he was the architect of the popular new economic plan that slashed inflation from 50% a month to 4% in July, the month it was introduced.
The new rules don't seem to be slowing Mr. Cardoso, who wears casual clothes to appeal to the working class, speaking about his five main concerns: jobs, health, education, safety and agriculture.
Handled by DM9, Sao Paulo, his campaign relies heavily on a hand as a visual, with each finger representing one of his five concerns, and the theme "Raise the hand. Brazil needs you."
Political advertising specialists are crediting Mr. Cardoso's TV performance with his rise in the polls.
A survey by the Instituto Brasileiro de Opiniao Publica & Estatistica the week of Aug. 8 indicated 32% would vote for Mr. Cardoso vs. 28% for Mr. Lula da Silva.