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Kander outraises Blunt in 3rd quarter, but incumbent has more cash to spend

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Candidates for Missouri Governor, U.S. Senate races, debate in Branson

Jason Kander (left), U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Fred Ryman enjoy a moment during a debate for Blunt's Senate seat held at a meeting of the Missouri Press Association at the Chateau on the Lake Resort in Branson, Mo. on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

WASHINGTON • Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander raised more than $3 million in campaign donations from July through September, and entered the final month of his campaign against Sen. Roy Blunt with about $3.5 million to spend.

Blunt reported raising about $1.8 million for his campaign and another $1 million for a joint account with the Missouri Republican Party, and said he had about $4 million left to spend heading into October.

Kander’s campaign said Wednesday that it had also raised $780,000 for the Missouri Democratic Party federal account. Kander said his campaign has raised $9.3 million since the Missouri secretary of state announced that he would challenge Blunt 20 months ago. Blunt has raised about $14.6 million.

Blunt had outraised Kander by $2.3 million to $1.75 million from April through June.

Kander’s record-quarter fundraising reflected the growing national profile of Missouri’s Senate race. His campaign said 23,000 new people contributed to his campaign during the quarter, a reflection of an outside-Missouri consensus that the race was closer than expected and Democratic opportunities elsewhere were diminishing.

A new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday gave Blunt a narrow advantage in a race that is within the margin of error. 

And the candidates’ fundraising is only part of the story. Political Action Committees and other groups not directly affiliated with either campaign have already spent more than $13 million on advertising and other campaign activity in the state, according to the latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

That number is likely to go much higher as the race intensifies over the final four weeks.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for instance, has shifted money from other states, like Ohio, where Republican Sen. Rob Portman has forged a comfortable poll lead, and has spent about $1.4 million in Missouri on Kander’s behalf, with a promise of more to come.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has answered with a more than $1.4 million campaign of its own, according to the most recent analysis by the non-partisan CRP. 

The National Rifle Association and groups affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican operative Karl Rove are among the outside groups advertising on Blunt’s behalf. Kander has also benefited by big spending of the AFSCME public employees union and by Majority Forward, one of the ubiquitous “dark money” PACs that do not have to disclose their donors.

By contrast, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill raised about $5.3 million in the third quarter of 2012, and her Republican challenger, Rep. Todd Akin, took in about $1.6 million over that same period. But both entered the final five weeks of that campaign with far less money on hand than either Blunt or Kander. 

McCaskill won re-election after Akin made controversial comments referring to "legitimate rape," which occurred during that election's third-quarter fundraising period. 

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Chuck Raasch is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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