Talent has $4.66 million ahead of November vote

Monday, January 30, 2006

Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill is expected to release financial records today or Tuesday.

WASHINGTON -- Facing a tough re-election challenge this year, Sen. Jim Talent built his campaign war chest to a formidable $4.66 million in the closing months of 2005.

Talent, R-Mo., hauled in about $1.1 million from Oct. 1 to the end of the year, according to a report due to be filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.

A copy of the report was provided to The Associated Press.

Lloyd Smith, senior adviser to Talent's campaign, said the fundraising pace shows Talent is taking seriously his Democratic opponent -- State Auditor Claire McCaskill.

"It certainly is an advantage for Senator Talent to have a financial edge at this point in the campaign, but you don't take these things for granted," Smith said. "We will have the resources to define the argument of the campaign and make sure people know where each of the candidates stand."

McCaskill, who announced her candidacy on Aug. 29, is expected to release her latest fund-raising figures today or Tuesday. She had about $650,000 in the bank at the end of September, after just a month of raising money.

A spokesman for McCaskill did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

McCaskill was heavily recruited to run by national Democrats who believe Talent is vulnerable. She lost a 2004 bid for governor to Republican Matt Blunt by less than 3 percentage points.

Smith said he expects Talent to raise between $10 million and $12 million before the Nov. 7 election.

Talent had just more than $4 million in his coffers at the end of September, but has begun spending money at a more rapid clip as his campaign machinery gears up. His campaign is adding staff and will move into new headquarters in St. Louis by the middle of next month, Smith said.

Recent polls show the race in a dead heat, but Smith called such surveys this far from election day "a snapshot" that has more to do with Republican woes nationally than the issues important to Missouri voters.

The GOP has been battered by news of a lobbying scandal in Washington and the continuing challenges of the war in Iraq. There's also the historical precedent for the party of an incumbent president in his second term to suffer losses during the midterm elections.

Smith said he expects polls after Labor Day to have more meaning as voters start focusing on the election.

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