TV viewers are seeing a barrage of new TV ads from U.S. Senate candidates Eric Schmitt and Trudy Busch Valentine. On the left, screenshots from two ads from Republican Schmitt; on the right, screenshots from two ads from Democrat Busch Valentine.

ANALYSIS |

The final two weeks of the campaign to replace U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt promise to bring a barrage of television ads, back-and-forth on social media, and a blitz of media coverage.

Republican Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine are competing for votes on Nov. 8, and competing for voter attention in the final stretch. 

Polls suggest Schmitt has a comfortable lead in a state that has trended solidly toward Republicans in recent years. Busch Valentine has an uphill battle, but she has a personal bankroll that gives her an opportunity to get her message out. The latest campaign finance reports show she has put $6.35 million of her own money into the effort, but while that is more than Schmitt has raised in total ($5.2 million), he had more cash on hand as of Sept. 30 — and has not needed to reach into his own pocketbook.

Plus, in a sign that the experts think the race is already won, outside groups are not spending money on TV ads in the same way they did during the primary contests, according to a Missouri Independent analysis conducted with help from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Schmitt drew scrutiny last week after revelations that his office sought the emails of Jon Turner, a Missouri State University associate professor, after Turner criticized Schmitt on Twitter and called him a “dangerous, hateful political jellyfish.” Schmitt’s office said the request was “part of a fact-finding process we undertook that was looking into the practices and policies of education in our state.” Turner called it “attempted intimidation.”

Schmitt has made wide-ranging use of the powers of his office to address issues of high interest to conservatives. He has filed multiple lawsuits challenging policies of the Biden administration, as well as local policies related to the COVID pandemic. As an example, Schmitt and attorneys general from five other states have filed suit to stop the Biden student loan forgiveness program, arguing the president had no authority to create the program without the approval of Congress. A federal court judge in the eastern district of Missouri ruled Thursday the states had no standing, but an appeals court temporarily held up the plan while the states appeal.

His latest move involves so-called ESG investing policies (Environmental, Social, Governance). As Fox Business reported, 19 states, led by Attorney General Schmitt, are launching an investigation into six large U.S. banks for policies backed by the United Nations “that require banks in the alliance to set carbon dioxide emission reduction targets in their lending and investment portfolios, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Schmitt told Fox Business: “We are leading a coalition investigating banks for ceding authority to the U.N., which will only result in the killing of American companies that don’t subscribe to the woke, climate agenda.”

(In a related move, Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick — on the Nov. 8 ballot as a candidate for state auditor — announced Tuesday that the state has pulled $500 million out of pension funds managed by BlackRock Inc., citing the asset manager’s environmental, social and governance “priority” over shareholder returns.)

Campaign finance reports

From Missouri Independent: “Outside groups poured money into Missouri in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 2 U.S. Senate primary, with political action committees spending nearly $20 million on television ads boosting or tearing down candidates. Since then, they’ve all gone silent. … The lack of involvement by outside groups in the Senate race is clear evidence of how the race is viewed nationally, long-time Republican consultant John Hancock said Thursday.”

From The Kansas City Star: “Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has four times more money than his Democratic opponent, Trudy Busch Valentine, heading into the final month of the U.S. Senate campaign. According to the reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday, Schmitt had $1.2 million in his campaign account while Busch Valentine had $349,513, as of the end of the September 30 reporting period.”

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine pumped another $3.3 million into her campaign to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in the most recent fundraising quarter. The wealthy political newcomer, however, still trailed Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt in fundraising as the two march toward a Nov. 8 showdown at the polls, Federal Election Commission filings show.”

(Editor’s note: Daily Citizen Board Chairman Thomas Carlson and his wife Chandler, as well as board member M. Suzanne Shaw have made donations to Busch Valentine’s campaign. Board members play no role in news coverage decisions.)

AdWars

Schmitt released a new ad Oct. 17 called “Clean Up,” which promotes policies — such as term limits and a ban on lobbying for former elected officials — he says will “stop the politicians from picking your pocket.” The ad suggests he favors term limits and also says that members of Congress should not be paid unless they balance the budget.

Another Schmitt ad, “Our Side,” lambasts Biden Administration policies that Schmitt says are responsible for inflation rates hitting a 40-year high. He says Busch Valentine will vote for “more liberal spending and higher taxes.”

Busch Valentine released a repackaged ad criticizing Schmitt’s support in 2013 for state legislation opening the door for Chinese investors to own Missouri farmland. The new version of the ad features a Fox News clip on the “Red Threat Rising” of Chinese investors buying U.S. farms. Busch Valentine says Schmitt would “be China’s senator,” and then she promises to be “nobody’s senator but yours.”

And Busch Valentine released a new ad about abortion, featuring a Joplin woman, Mylissa Farmer, whose situation was recently profiled in the Springfield News-Leader. The ad criticizes Schmitt’s position as “just too extreme.” In a statement Busch Valentine said: “Missouri women like Mylissa are less safe today because of Eric Schmitt.” 

Tweets of the Week

Busch Valentine suggests Schmitt is a slash-and-burn candidate who will be satisfied as “senator of the ashes,” while Schmitt says he has the firefighters on his side.

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