FEC reports show Crist the man to beat in Florida

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will hold a significant advantage over his rivals for the state's open Senate seat in 2010, according to early fundraising announcements ahead of second-quarter financial filings due on Wednesday.

Crist’s $4.3 million effort for his new Senate campaign is the biggest game-changer among several early announcements, and probably will remain so when all financial reports are received in the coming week.

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Crist was expected to raise big money for his campaign, but his total far outpaced anybody’s estimates and makes him an even bigger favorite than he was before.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), meanwhile, raised $1.2 million and has put together a respectable $3 million for the race. But if Crist is even close to maintaining his current pace, it will be difficult for Meek to gain much traction.

Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) also saw his stock slide in a big way, with his $340,000 quarter dwarfed by Crist, who already led in primary polls by upwards of 30 points.

There is no such clarity in Illinois, and the second-quarter reports only reinforce that. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) quietly announced Friday that he had raised $670,000 in the second quarter – a sharp dropoff from his head-turning $1.1 million first quarter, which had some suggesting he might be the frontrunner.

Decisions this week by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) and Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) not to run for the seat leave an opening for Giannoulias, but businessman Chris Kennedy (D) is still a good bet to get in the race and could garner much of the establishment’s support. Giannoulias could have made a strong case for himself in that role by turning in a stronger second-quarter report, but the race remains in flux.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whose candidacy is no longer as sure a thing as it was just days ago, nearly rivaled Giannoulias with his House campaign committee, raising $580,000.

In Kentucky, state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) made a splash with his $1.3 million quarter. That is expected to put him ahead in his primary against 2004 nominee and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D).

On the GOP side in that race, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson made a strong case for his candidacy by turning in a $600,000 report from his exploratory committee. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) still stands in his way for now, but even with that obstacle, Grayson has a good start.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) turned in the type of report he needed in Missouri’s Senate race. After a disappointing $560,000 first quarter, Blunt’s $1 million second quarter isn’t outstanding, but it is solid and serves as notice to some doubtful Republicans that he’s serious about his campaign and raising money.

The likely Democratic nominee, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, raised a similar amount in the first quarter but hasn’t announced second quarter totals.

Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) sent a Blunt-like message in New Hampshire’s Senate race by increasing his fundraising from a disconcerting $230,000 in the first quarter to a decent $725,000 in the second quarter. Hodes isn’t raising money like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) did when she first got in, but he does have an earlier start and an open seat to go after. There is no doubt he is a contender now.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who is waiting on a likely challenge from Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), sent a message too, with his $1.2 million quarter and $3.2 million bankroll. Melancon had less than $1 million at the end of the first quarter and hasn’t announced his second-quarter totals.

In Connecticut, former Rep. Rob Simmons’s (R-Conn.) $750,000 raised was less assertive, given that former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley (R) raised $530,000. Simmons’s total was solid, but next to Foley’s it shows the GOP frontrunner has a serious primary on his hands before he can face Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

State Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R) will need to start raising more if he wants to be a part of that conversation. He pulled together just $125,000 in the second quarter.

In other Senate reports of note:

-Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), who is weighing a challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), didn’t raise money like a Senate candidate in the second quarter, turning in just $120,000 in receipts and having less than $700,000 on hand.

-Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) raised $1.1 million and banked $5.1 million, but he probably won’t need it after his most serious potential opponent, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) announced this week that she wouldn’t run for Senate.

-Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams (R) reportedly raised $400,000 at one event recently. His totals aren’t in, but that should serve notice that he’s serious about Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R-Texas) seat, whenever it may be open.

-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had an even bigger one-shot fundraiser, pulling in $2 million at one event thanks to the presence of President Obama. Expect a real big report from Reid and a continually scared cadre of GOP opponents.