Seven weeks remain in the campaign to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and the top candidates — Republican Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine — are positioning for the stretch run.
In the seven weeks since their Aug. 2 primary victories, Schmitt and Busch Valentine have consolidated support within their parties and started to refine messages. Campaign strategists have put together fundraising and advertising campaigns, which are about to be unleashed on voters throughout the state. Outside groups are readying their own plans for largely negative TV ads, mailers and door hangers.
Schmitt is referring to his opponent as “The Heiress Valentine,” (conveniently leaving out the reference to her Busch family heritage) and says she is “an out-of-touch elitist,” while he comes from a working-class background.
Busch Valentine says Schmitt has proven how extreme and out of touch he is on issues like abortion, while she is a nurse, mother and grandmother who would be independent of special interests.
What is the Senate Campaign Digest? Each Monday morning leading up to the Nov. 8 election, the Springfield Daily Citizen will provide a weekly digest of news about the race, helping local voters sort through all of the information available from the campaigns and other media. (You can read digests from the primary election here.)
Polls that have been released publicly — such as this poll from St. Louis University and YouGov — typically show Schmitt with a large lead in a state that has trended in recent elections toward a deeper shade of red. In 2020, Republican Donald Trump won Missouri by a 57-41 margin over Democrat Joe Biden. Republican Gov. Mike Parson won re-election by a similar margin.
As has become typical, candidates are sparring over whether to meet for debates. You should not expect to see them together on stage often, if at all. Schmitt skipped a debate Friday before the Missouri Press Association. She is refusing to say if she will attend a televised debate hosted by Nextstar TV stations in Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City.
Both candidates are likely to rely on TV ads to sell themselves and define their opponent.
Of course, things can change and we address a few outstanding wild cards later in this post. But, to get started, let’s meet the candidates who will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Meet the candidates
Republican Party: Eric Schmitt
In their words: Eric Schmitt is Missouri’s 43rd Attorney General and chief legal and law enforcement official. A lifelong, sixth-generation Missourian, Eric is driven by his constitutional conservative beliefs, which he applies every day as the lawyer for all six million Missourians. Eric and his wife Jaime have three children: Stephen, Sophia and Olivia. Full website bio
Slogan: Join our fight to save America
Themes/key issues: Hold China accountable; protect America through bio-security; take on big tech companies; improve election integrity; protect America first; save jobs from Democratic efforts that will destroy the energy, manufacturing, and agriculture industries; keep families safe; support appointment of federal judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution; support religious liberties; fight cancel culture.
Democrat Party: Trudy Busch Valentine
In their words: Trudy Busch Valentine is a mother, nurse, supporter of children’s causes, and a fourth-generation Missourian; daughter of Gertrude Buholzer Busch and August (Gussie) Anheuser Busch Jr., who grew the Anheuser-Busch companies into the largest brewery in the world. Full website bio
Slogan: “I’m running to put politics aside, to stand up for all the families who are just barely getting by, and put Missourians first.”
Themes/key issues: Protecting access to safe and legal abortion; getting corporate money out of politics; standing with the LGBTQ community; protecting the environment; protecting Social Security and Medicare; reducing gun violence; fighting legislation that makes it more difficult to vote; improving health care access; investing in children and families; investing in efforts to reduce opioids and fight addiction.
Libertarian Party: Jonathan Dine
Libertarian Party candidate Jonathan Dine, is a fitness trainer and perennial candidate for the Senate. He lives in Riverside, a suburb of Kansas City. He does not have a campaign website, but you can follow him on Facebook.
Slogan: “SHOW ME FREEDOM! People of Missouri, it’s time to stand up and reclaim your government.”
Themes/key issues: Lower taxes and smaller government; supports a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression and make offensive efforts to combat terrorism, but does not support the occupation and nation-building of other countries.
Constitution Party: Paul Venable
Constitution Party candidate Paul Venable was born in Ohio and has lived in central Missouri since early 2018. He has more than 30 years experience in information technology services. Full website bio
Slogan: A nation of Kings. (Venable explains that the common citizen should have the freedom and liberty historically enjoyed only by those who claimed the divine right of kings.)
Themes/key issues: The campaign website does not list key issues. In social media posts, the Constitution Party focuses on broad concepts, such as freedom and liberty, and mentions some policies, such as eliminating the Federal Reserve.
Status of the race
When we signed off our last digest on Aug. 8, we mentioned three possible wild cards for the race — one of which has been shuffled out of the deck.
Independent candidate John Wood, with funding organized by former Republican U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, gathered petitions with 22,000 signatures seeking a spot on the ballot. His candidacy offered the possibility of siphoning votes away from Schmitt, and giving Busch Valentine a better path to election. Just as the secretary of state’s office was about to certify his spot on the ballot, Wood suddenly shut down his campaign, saying circumstances had changed.
Here is an excerpt from the Missouri Independent story:
“I made the decision to run for the United States Senate when Eric Greitens was the favorite for the Republican nomination,” Wood said in an email to supporters. “That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state and my country.”
Missouri “no longer faces the risk of Greitens as our next U.S. Senator,” Wood said.
While he acknowledged significant differences of opinion with both Republican nominee Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, “it has become evident there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate.”
This still leaves two major wild cards:
Abortion rights — Democrats nationally are energized by the prospect of voter turnout in favor of their candidates due to the mid-year Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years. The Dobbs decision now puts the power to regulate abortion back in the hands of the states.
- Schmitt is proud to have been the first to act following the decision, triggering a strict state law that bans abortion, and does not include exceptions for rape or incest.
- Busch Valentine has made protecting abortion rights a centerpiece of her campaign.
Experience — While Busch Valentine has no political experience, Schmitt has twice run successful statewide races and spent 17 years in public service, starting as an alderman in the St. Louis suburb of Glendale, and working his way through offices as state Senator, then to the offices of State Treasurer and Attorney General. Busch Valentine has the money to hire all sorts of political consultants to coach her and offer talking points, but the candidate still has to deliver on the stump and in media interviews.
Southwest Missouri voters play a role
While Schmitt would be expected to carry the vast majority of votes in southwest Missouri, including Greene County, the margin could be much closer in the city of Springfield. A strong field of local Democratic candidates for state House — four women — could help Busch Valentine claim victory in the Queen City.
Her narrow path to winning statewide will involve amassing large margins in her favor in St. Louis and Kansas City, plus picking up victories in relative Democrat strongholds in Columbia and Springfield. Unfortunately for Busch Valentine, the state has moved strongly to the right since the last Democrat to win statewide for a Senate seat. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill won her 2012 re-election bid by carrying more than 50 of the state’s 114 counties, plus the independent city of St. Louis. (In 2018, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley handily defeated McCaskill, taking all but three counties and the city of St. Louis.)
Plus, Busch Valentine’s opponent is not Todd Akin, who McCaskill dispatched in 2012 after he famously claimed that women victims of what he described as “legitimate rape” rarely experience pregnancy as a result. While Schmitt holds very conservative views on the issue of abortion, he is unlikely to make that kind of mistake in stating his views.
Busch Valentine tells nurses her No. 1 focus as Senator will be health care
Busch Valentine campaigned in Springfield this past weekend, with a fundraiser on Friday night and an appearance at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks on Saturday morning. She capped off her stay with a roundtable discussion at Missouri State University with a group of nurses and health care professionals hosted by Kathryn Patterson, undergraduate program director and clinical associate professor at Missouri State University’s School of Nursing.
Busch Valentine shared the story of what led her into nursing, then turned the discussion over to 13 current and retired nurses and educators. She took careful notes while listening to stories about the shortage of nurses and challenges of attracting students to a nursing career. “The thing I’m worried about,” Busch Valentine said, “is that young women today “don’t want to be a nurse,” while adding a caveat that the profession definitely needs more male nurses, too.
Participants shared concerns about a wide variety of health care issues, including: challenges of providing access to health care to both uninsured and underinsured populations; high cost of prescription drugs; a shortage of rural health care options that are likely to get worse due to closures of rural hospitals; problems facing the unsheltered community; overwhelming mental health issues facing children and adults; and safety issues facing health care workers due to unstable clients.
Busch Valentine assured the group that “if I am in the Senate … my main policy (focus) is going to be health care,” particularly mental health care and addressing opioid addiction.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.