Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate whose US Senate candidacy has fired up Democrats across the nation, raised $5.7 million in the last three months of 2011, an unusually large amount for a first-time candidate and a reflection of what many observers say is her potent appeal to party leaders and activists eager to recapture the seat once held by Edward M. Kennedy.
Her overall fund-raising for the three final months of 2011 far outpaced Senator Scott Brown’s $3.2-million total for the same period.
On Monday, Brown’s campaign released figures showing that the Republican had raised a total of $8.5 million in 2011, some several hundred thousand less than the $8.8 million Warren raised since summer.
Still, Brown holds a strong advantage, with $12.8 million in his campaign account, a record amount for any Massachusetts candidate this early in a regular election cycle.
Warren, by comparison, has just over $6 million on hand in her account, according to her campaign.
Warren, who has never run for office before and has no fund-raising structure to draw upon, stunned the political world this fall when she raised $3.15 million in the few weeks surrounding her announcement that she had officially entered the race.
Tad Devine, an experienced Washington-based Democratic media consultant, said Warren’s fund-raising prowess is startling for a candidate with no background in electoral politics.
“That is an extraordinary amount of money to be raised by a first-time candidate,’’ he said.
“Even in a big state, raising $2 million in one quarter is a big haul for an incumbent US senator,’’ said Devine, who has advised Democrats in Senate races across the country for 20 years, including Kennedy’s famous 1994 battle to beat back a challenge from Mitt Romney.
Brown broke all records when he ran in the January 2010 special election to fill Kennedy’s seat, hauling in $14 million in the 19 days leading up to the election, as the race became a national cause for conservatives across the country.
Until then, among the most costly US Senate races in Massachusetts history was the 1996 battle between US Senator John F. Kerry and William F. Weld, then governor.
That race, too, drew national attention, allowing Weld to raise $7.1 million. Kerry took in $4.1 million, while also using $1.32 million in personal funds.
Combined, the two spent about $16 million, a level that Brown and Warren will almost assuredly surpass in the coming months.
This year’s race, which both national parties feel is critical to their control of the Senate, is also expected to generate millions of dollars of television ads from third-party political action committees.
Already a committee founded by Karl Rove, former president George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, spent more than $1.1 million last fall assailing Warren.
At the same time, Brown came under fire with $3 million worth of ads from two environmental groups attacking his record.
In an effort to introduce Warren to voters and counter the Rove attacks, the Warren campaign spent $1.6 million on television ads in December.
While some of Warren’s fund-raising success is spurred by the Democrats’ determination to wipe away the humiliation Brown inflicted on them and the Obama White House by putting the Senate seat in GOP hands, some observers say her wider appeal stems from her national image as a crusader for the middle class.
“This has to do with her embodiment of that message of standing up for the middle class and fairness,’’ said John Sasso, a veteran Massachusetts political strategist who has advised a host of national Democratic leaders, including President Clinton and several presidential candidates.
“She says it in such a compelling and authentic way that she is getting an overwhelming response,’’ he said. “She doesn’t sound threatening or angry. She comes across as very committed and at a time when people are looking to somebody who embodies that commitment to fairness.’’
Her campaign reported that the average contribution in the final months of 2011 was $64 and said the total number of Massachusetts contributors increased to roughly 23,000. Warren’s campaign said it would not release the total number of donors until its official report is made public on Jan. 31.
“From all across our Commonwealth, people are supporting our campaign and the fight to level the playing field for middle-class families,’’ Warren said in a statement. Only about a third of the donors in her previous report were Bay State residents.
“With Wall Street lining up against this campaign, already contributing millions and willing to pay any price to try to stop our work, it’s going to take a strong, grass-roots effort like this to win,’’ she said.
Asked to respond to Warren’s new numbers, Brown’s campaign remained silent, deferring comment to the state Republican Party.
A party spokeswoman said Warren has relied on “left wing’’ supporters pushing a liberalagenda in Washington.
“Elizabeth Warren is being financed by extreme liberal special interests from outside Massachusetts,’’ Alleigh Marré, a party press aide said in an e-mail.
“As the intellectual founder of the radical Occupy protests, she has a national network of left-wing supporters eager to open their wallets to finance her agenda of bigger government, higher taxes, and more debt.’’
The Warren campaign said it has not yet compiled a breakdown of the source of her most recent donations.
Though she has not yet captured the Democratic nomination, Warren is considered the leading contender to face Brown in the general election. Her entrance into the race on Sept. 14 prompted several candidates to drop out. Two others - Marisa DeFranco, an attorney from Middleton, and James C. King of Dover - remain in the race, but have attracted relatively little support and have struggled to raise money.