OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Democrat Brad Carson and Republican Tom Coburn have both climbed mountains to get to where they are in their heated U.S. Senate race.
Now the challenge for both candidates is to keep their campaigns on track in the final three weeks and get out their vote for the Nov. 2 general election.
Coburn also faces a fund-raising test, having been outspent so far by his Democratic opponent.
That's a change from recent federal elections, where Republicans have generally held the upperhand in financing, said Gary Copeland, executive director of the Carl Albert Institute at the University of Oklahoma.
For Coburn, the primary was the first hill he had to climb to get into a general election contest with Carson.
Coburn was not the early favorite, but got 61 percent of the vote in defeating two well-known candidates _ former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys and Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony.
For Carson, the task was to get off to a fast start in the general election race with adequate finances to get out his message.
According to post-primary contribution reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Carson reported raising $2.9 million and spending just under $1 million with almost $2 million cash on hand.
Coburn had raised $823,121, spent $403,404 and had $419,715 in cash.
The Center for Responsive Politics said about 77 percent of Carson's money came from individuals and about 20 percent from political action committees. Coburn got 83 percent from individuals and 15 percent from PACs.
Carson had an easy time in his primary, getting 79 percent in a five-candidate field made up of four little-known candidates and an indicted state official.
That allowed him to get a head start in television advertising over Coburn, first promoting his main message that he had kept his word as 2nd District congressman and would fight to make sure Oklahoma gets its equal share of federal funding.
Although he came out in the primary with a lot of momentum, Coburn was put on the defensive in his race with Carson, who ran television ads exploiting some of Coburn's statements.
Carson, Copeland said, ``stepped out and tried to define himself and how he is different from Tom Coburn. That's different from the past when Democrats tended to react and let Republicans define who they are.''
A notable example of that occurred in the last race for an open U.S. Senate seat when Republican Jim Inhofe defeated Democrat Dave McCurdy, Copeland said.
He also said an attempt by Humphreys to get to the right of Coburn during the primary may have forced Coburn to ``say some things that have not served him well in the general election.''
And in the past few weeks, Coburn has been forced to explain such things as saying Oklahoma's economic problems were caused by ``crapheads in Oklahoma City.''
His campaign also was sidetracked when he had to respond for two weeks to national news stories focusing on a woman's charges that he sterilized her several years ago without her consent. Coburn denied the allegation.
Polls suggest Coburn may have rebounded somewhat. Two recent surveys commissioned for television stations suggest the race is a virtual tie.
Carson, however, got a lift late last week when University of Oklahoma football legend Barry Switzer announced his support. Switzer's backing was considered a factor in Democrat Brad Henry's victory in the 2002 governor's race.
Copeland said Carson ``is in far better shape than most people would expect a Democrat to be at this point'' but a lot can happen in the final weeks of the campaign.
``One would have not have expected the challenges that Coburn has faced in terms of having to defend himself of allegations,'' he said.
``It's a dangerous thing for any campaign to let the opposition define their candidate,'' he added.