Missouri Senate candidates, from left, Jonathan Dine, Libertarian Party, Trudy Busch Valentine, Democratic Party, and Paul Venable, Constitution Party, debate before publishers and editors Sept. 16, 2022, at the Missouri Press Association convention at the Lake of the Ozarks. The empty podium is for Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the Republican candidate who declined to participate (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).


The debate over debates in the U.S. Senate campaign continued this past week, with neither Republican Eric Schmitt nor Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine conceding to appear together on stage, apparently because they do not believe the conditions of the debate were favorable to them.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, the candidate who trails in the race usually favors more debates — but Busch Valentine may have her reasons for a different approach. The Post-Dispatch quoted Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and wrote: 

Valentine, he said, “might be hesitant because, at this point, she is not a particularly polished candidate, and she may see personal campaigning and media ads as her route to victory.”

Schmitt, meanwhile, “is assumed to enjoy a comfortable lead, so he doesn’t see any reason to debate because doing so might give his opponent a chance to narrow the gap,” Squire said.

The Kansas City Star’s story — There may be no U.S. Senate debate in Missouri. Here’s why that’s becoming more common — expanded on the Missouri situation to say it was becoming more common nationally as candidates are “bickering about how, when and whether to debate.”

“Debates are one of the very few things left in modern campaigns which are largely unpredictable,” David Kensinger, a longtime Republican consultant in Kansas. “And for campaign teams that are trying to control events, that’s a very scary prospect.”

The Star goes on to say that campaigns increasingly tend to focus on base voters, rather than trying to attract new or independent voters.

“There isn’t much of an undecided electorate left,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “There’s a disaffected electorate, which you could potentially mobilize, but disaffected electorate is not likely to watch debates”

Stay tuned, but don’t expect to see Schmitt and Busch Valentine together on stage prior to the Nov. 8 election, unless they both start to see a potential advantage in doing so.


In the news

Missouri AG Schmitt signs onto brief backing Trump in legal battle with DOJ over documents — Schmitt continued using his authority as Missouri’s attorney general to support issues of concern to conservatives and supporters of former President Donald Trump. The Kansas City Star reported Schmitt signed onto a brief led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton backing Trump in his dispute with the Department of Justice over classified documents seized by the FBI at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The brief included a laundry list of conservative talking points ranging from — theories about origins of COVID-19 to criticism of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies — as reasons for why the court should distrust the administration and allow a special master to review all 11,000 documents seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

“At a minimum, this Court should view the Administration’s assertions of good-faith, neutrality, and objectivity through jaundiced eyes,” said the brief, which was filed by Paxton and signed by Schmitt along with attorneys general from Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

In celebrating victory in the Republican primary on Aug. 2, Republican Eric Schmitt drew a contrast with Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine by saying he was from the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton, not from “billions,” referencing her Busch family wealth. (Photo from Team Schmitt for US Senate Twitter feed)

Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch took a look at Schmitt’s campaign tactic of contrasting himself with the wealth enjoyed by Busch Valentine, by saying he’s from Bridgeton, not ‘billions.’ In their story, which features a little snark balanced with comments from Schmitt’s family, Bridgeton residents weigh in.

Bridgeton sits upon a hill in northwest St. Louis County, a suburb without a true center. Following shifting demographics and declining population (from nearly 20,000 in 1970 to 11,500 in 2020), the first minority to serve on the city council was elected in April. … Bridgeton is Logistics Town, USA. As for Schmitt, who lives in Glendale, it has always been a place to pass through on the way to somewhere else.

The story goes on to quote Conrad Bowers, who served as mayor for nearly three decades, until 2015:

“Eric, hey, I am proud of him. … Family values, that’s something with him.”

And it concludes with comments from Theresa Gardner, a waitress who graduated from the same high school as Schmitt’s father. 

She said being from Bridgeton meant more when Schmitt was growing up here. “He moved his family out. Why?” she said. “You wonder.”

Tweets of the Week

It’s Pumpkin Spice Latte vs. Busch beer week in the Twitterverse, demonstrating just how far campaigns will go to tweak each other.

The Daily Citizen Senate Campaign Digest is compiled by David Stoeffler, CEO of the Daily Citizen. Stoeffler has more than 30 years of experience in covering politics in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Missouri. If you have tips or suggestions for the Senate campaign coverage, you may email him at dstoeffler@sgfcitizen.org.

David Stoeffler

David Stoeffler is the chief executive officer of the Springfield Daily Citizen. He has more than 40 years experience in the news business, having been a reporter, editor and news executive in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Arizona and Missouri. You may email him at dstoeffler@sgfcitizen.org or call 417-837-3664. More by David Stoeffler