WASHINGTON — Gov. Charlie Crist got swamped by rival Marco Rubio in the latest round of their fundraising battle for U.S. Senate, but Thursday's reporting deadline revealed a major upside for Crist:
He has nearly twice as much cash on hand as Rubio — $8.2 million to $4.4 million.
The numbers take a bit of the shine off Rubio's record-breaking $4.5 million haul for the past three months. In comparison, Crist raised $1.8 million, which exceeds the $1.1 million from the last period, before he left the Republican Party to run with no party affiliation.
Crist's once legendary fundraising has been in a slide, but he wasn't complaining Thursday.
"I couldn't be more delighted," Crist said. "It's uncharted territory. We only hope that people will continue to believe in what we're trying to do."
Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said the campaign spent $1.3 million on TV ads pushing back on Crist attacks in April, and spent money on direct mail and other ways to build the donor base.
"It's no surprise that Charlie Crist would maintain a significant advantage over Marco at this point," Burgos said. "He's been the Republican establishment candidate and now he's seeking to be the Democratic establishment candidate."
Crist, who has enjoyed widespread media attention due to the gulf oil disaster, would not say when he'll start to spend his millions. "That's strategic," he said.
He and Rubio have traded leads in the polls, outpacing Democrats.
While Crist has lost access to a network of deep-pocketed GOP donors, he is stitching together a broader political base.
His fundraising pitches have appealed to all political parties, seeking to build on small-dollar donations — a model Barack Obama used in his run for president. When the detailed reports are available, Crist said, it will reveal "independents, Republicans, Democrats."
''To put it in a simple form, they will be Floridians, and that's what I'm most proud of," he said.
Democrat Kendrick Meek had already reported raising $1 million for the period. He has spent about $700,000 and has $4 million on hand for his primary fight with Jeff Greene, a billionaire who has already spent millions on TV ads and direct mail.