JEFFERSON CITY — Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has nearly doubled the fundraising of Republican Rep. Roy Blunt in the early stages of Missouri's 2010 Senate race.
Finance summaries released Wednesday show Carnahan raised more than $1 million from her candidacy announcement on Feb. 3 through March 31.
Blunt received about $542,000 in contributions during the first quarter of 2009, saying that most came after he declared his Senate candidacy on Feb. 18.
Carnahan and Blunt are the only declared candidates to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, who announced in January that he would not seek a fifth term. But former Republican State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, also is considering a Senate bid.
Under federal campaign finance rules, Blunt is able to use money from his House campaign committee for his Senate race. He reported a total of $674,000 on hand as of March 31.
But Carnahan was not able to transfer money from her secretary of state committee to her federal campaign. She had nearly $928,000 on hand at the end of March.
"Election Day is still many months away and we're sure to go through plenty of ups and downs between now and then," Carnahan wrote in an e-mail sent Wednesday to supporters. "But we couldn't be off to a better start."
Carnahan had been considering a Senate run even before Bond declared he would not run again.
Blunt said in an interview Tuesday that he expects the Senate race to cost between $18 million and $20 million. In his first six weeks as a candidate, Blunt said he focused on attending as many local campaign events as possible. He cited appearances in about 20 counties.
"We're going to raise the money it takes. I'm not particularly concerned about what order that happens in," Blunt said.
Missouri's Senate race is expected to be one of the most hotly contested nationally as Democrats try to gain a 60-seat majority needed to halt potential Republican filibusters and enact the agenda of Democratic President Barack Obama. That means national Democratic and Republican committees are likely to supplement whatever is spent by the candidates.
Candidates who raise a lot of money early can often attract even more money, because hesitant donors want some sign of a candidate's strength before joining the bandwagon, said political scientist David Kimball, of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
In that sense, Carnahan's early fundraising lead could create a further advantage. But Kimball noted that Blunt is a former House Republican whip who traveled the country raising money for other congressional candidates.
"He must have access to a pretty big donor list, so even though he's behind a bit now, I wouldn't really worry much about his fundraising ability," Kimball said.
Some Republicans may also be delaying contribution decisions to see whether Steelman gets into the Senate race, Kimball said.