By Reid Wilson - 09/15/09 08:45 PM EDT
Two Virginians gunning for the governor's mansion will head into the final seven weeks of the campaign with record amounts of cash, according to new reports detailing campaign financing.
Democrat Creigh Deeds, a Virginia state senator, raised $3.5 million between July 1 and Aug. 31, retaining $4.4 million for the final sprint.
McDonnell began the general-election campaign in much better position than Deeds; he had no primary, while Deeds had to drain much of his bank balance in order to beat two better-funded challengers in June.
Both national parties have promised to weigh in heavily. The Democratic National Committee has pledged $5 million toward the race, while the Republican National Committee on Tuesday said it would spend at least $7 million to wrest control of the governor's mansion. Democrats have held the office since now-Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerDemocratic National Convention event calendar Liberal group: Kaine could be 'disastrous' VP pick Buzz grows that Tim Kaine will be Clinton's VP pick MORE (D) won it in 2001.
The Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association are both spending millions on the race.
Outside groups are likely to play a major role as well. On Monday, the National Rifle Association weighed in on the race to support McDonnell, reversing itself from the 2005 attorney general's race, when it backed Deeds over the Republican.
Public opinion polls have routinely shown McDonnell with a statistically significant lead. A Washington Post poll conducted in the middle of August showed McDonnell leading by a 54 percent-to-39 percent margin among likely voters.
Voters trust both candidates to handle key issues, with McDonnell holding slight advantages on gun control and taxes.
Deeds faces historical trouble, too; since 1977, the party that holds the White House has lost the governorship every four years. A Democratic loss this year may be seen as a personal defeat for Gov. Tim KaineTim KaineDems put immigration front-and-center on convention's first day Only senator to back Bernie: Dems must unite Kaine: We need Sanders supporters MORE (D), the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Kaine is barred by Virginia state law from running for a second term.