Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (search) will formally kick off her re-election bid Monday, capping a weekend of campaign-style stops that begin on the home turf of her likely Republican opponent.

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (search), who lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore, announced his campaign weeks ago — but that may be the only area where he is ahead of Mikulski, a three-term Democrat from Baltimore.

Polls give Mikulski a commanding lead over Pipkin and she had more than $1.6 million on hand as of Sept. 30, according to her latest filing with the Federal Election Commission (search).

"It would be a political miracle if he wins," said WTOP Radio political analyst Mark Plotkin.

But Pipkin has beaten the odds before.

The freshman state senator, who made a fortune as a Wall Street financier, spent more than $500,000 of his own money to upset a longtime Democratic incumbent in 2002.

While he has not yet filed a campaign report with the FEC, Pipkin's campaign manager, Steve Crim, said the Republican hopeful will report 1,200 contributors by the end of this month. Crim would not say how much the campaign has raised, however.

Pipkin, who boasts that he had toured all 24 jurisdictions in the state by Dec. 24, is focusing on building name recognition across the state with touring and radio ads, Crim said.

He plans to personally ask Marylanders for their votes. Even though the legislative session started this week in Annapolis, Crim said, Pipkin will simply tour more often on the weekends.

An October poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies (search) said 36 percent of likely voters recognized Pipkin's name, which the poll said is not a bad starting position for a challenger.

But the same poll gave Mikulski a 57-26 percent margin over Pipkin. Hillary Gonzales said her firm has not done another poll on the Senate race since October, but she does not think the results have changed much since then.

Paul Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland (search), said Pipkin is a typical challenger: He is not known and does not have a strong record.

Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, noted that Mikulski has always won handily in Maryland and that this race is not likely to be different.

"She's unbeatable in the state of Maryland," said Lichtman, adding that Mikulski will be able to raise enough money to beat whatever Pipkin puts up.

Mikulski started her campaign tour Friday and plans a campaign stop on Saturday before the formal announcement on Monday with rallies in three large communities outside Washington, D.C., said Chip Paucek, her deputy campaign manager.

Pipkin will campaign on a platform of creating more and better jobs and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. But his main message against Mikulski is that she has been in the Senate for too long.

"What has she done?" asked Crim.

Mikulski's answer, in an interview Friday with Plotkin on WTOP radio, is that she was working for Maryland while Pipkin was on Wall Street making millions.

Her Senate Web site says she has been active in health benefits, defense, jobs and some taxes, among others. Herrnson agreed that she has been effective and has influence on Capitol Hill.

And Plotkin said Mikulski has beaten more well-known names in the past.

"[Pipkin's] problem is not himself but a very popular, well-respected incumbent," said Plotkin.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.