Wednesday October 03, 2012 | 01:48 PM

Maine's U.S. Senate race continues to attract more national attention as  the $2 million television ad assault on independent  candidate Gov. Angus King raises hopes – or fears – that Republicans can hold onto the seat.

Recent headlines have focused on the polls. But look for fundraising numbers to be the next story.

Former Gov. King has been the clear frontrunner since Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced her retirement. Independent polls show King  still has a commanding lead over Republican Charlie Summers of anywhere from 8 percentage points to 22 points. Real Clear Politics has the average polling margin at 14.5 percent.

Republicans, claiming to have internal polling that shows King's lead is much smaller, continue to dump dollars into the race. A $410,000 investment in anti-Summers ads by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee suggests they consider the race uncertain, too.

The fact that "Republicans are doubling down" and Democrats are starting to fight back led Politico to include the Maine race on its list of 10 most competitive nationwide.

The next round of independent polls will be closely watched, to be sure. In the meantime, however, all eyes will be on fundraising reports.

The third quarter ended Sept. 30 and candidates must file third quarter fundraising and spending reports with the Federal Elections Commission by Oct. 15.

"Look for Summers to post fundraising numbers that will turn heads," Politico wrote. Summers' last report put his fundraising totals through June at $240,000. He needs to do have raised a lot more in the past three months to turn heads.

A Washington Post column, meanwhile, says King is one of the eight candidates around the country most in need of a lucrative third quarter. King had raised nearly $1 million by June 30, but he also has spent a lot and he has no party to back him up down the stretch. So what would be a good number for King? A cool $1.2 million would help, the column says.

"He could really use a sizeable bump in fundraising to ward off a fast-emerging threat from Summers," the Post says.

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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