The latest TV ad from Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is seeking the GOP nod for U.S. Senate, includes his promise to take a blowtorch "to Biden's socialist agenda." (Screenshot)

ANALYSIS |

We are in the phase of the U.S. Senate campaign where we learn indirectly how the candidates see themselves vs. their rivals.

Generally, if a candidate (or an independent committee supporting a particular candidate) is running negative TV commercials about an opponent, it means they are trying to suppress the vote and get an advantage over the opponent.

If people are choosing not to participate in debates, it means they feel they have more to lose than to gain by appearing with rivals. 

So, what did we learn from the following developments this week in the Aug. 2 primary races for Republicans and Democrats seeking to succeed U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt?

Ad spending

TV ad spending approaches $10 million in Missouri U.S. Senate primary (Missouri Independent)

  • The biggest spender is Save Missouri Values, the PAC backing Eric Schmitt. The PAC, which has raised $4.5 million, has spent just under $2 million on TV ads running in every market in the state. This includes negative ads against Vicky Hartzler and positive ads in support of Schmitt.
  • Team PAC, which backs former Gov. Eric Greitens, has spent $1.7 million, with ads opposing both Hartzler and Schmitt.
  • Show Me Values PAC, which opposes Greitens, has spent $1.5 million on negative ads against him. Among the leading funders of the PAC is Rex Sinquefield, the wealthy St. Louis businessman and political activist, who is backing Schmitt in the campaign. 
  • Hartzler has spent $1.3 million from her campaign committee, focusing her ad spending on positive ads. There is no super PAC supporting Hartzler, but she does have backing from the National Rifle Association’s Save Our Freedom Action Fund, which is running an ad supporting her.

Dem debate postponed

Democratic Senate debate ‘postponed’ after Valentine ignores invitation (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Lucas Kunce, the other Democrat who was invited to participate in the debate, said in a news release: “I hope that my opponent will have the respect for Missouri voters to show up and debate.”
  • When asked if the campaign’s strategy was not to debate, Elizabeth Markowicz, with the Trudy Busch Valentine campaign, said: “I would not say that.”

GOP debates in limbo

Hartzler campaign says two US Senate rivals ‘in hiding’ after debate called off (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Vicky Hartzler’s campaign manager said the two opponents, former Gov. Eric Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, were “in hiding. …Our opponents are airing ads of themselves with flamethrowers, flash grenades, and sniper rifles, but remain in hiding at the possibility of answering questions about their records,” Mike Hafner, campaign manager for Hartzler, said in a statement.
  • Rich Chrismer, spokesman for Schmitt’s campaign, suggested in a text message that Schmitt didn’t commit to the Nexstar debate because Greitens wouldn’t. “This is a two-candidate race between Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens, and as we’ve said all along, if Eric Greitens agrees to participate, Eric Schmitt would look forward to the opportunity,” Chrismer said.

Meanwhile, Billy Long says it is Hartzler (who he refers to as #MiniLizCheney) who is dodging debates, as she (and the candidate Long calls #ChickenSchmitt) declined invitations to a debate on Monday in St. Louis. Long says that Greitens (who Long refers to as #SnidelyWhiplash) had accepted. The event (which was to be hosted by Real America’s Voice and The Gateway Pundit) was canceled on Friday.

Conclusions?

On the Republican side, Greitens, Schmitt and Hartzler are jockeying for the top spot. With no super PAC on her side, Hartzler is at a disadvantage, and has to hope for: (1) debates that her opponents won’t give her; (2) that the mud fight between Schmitt and Greitens (and their super PACs) causes enough damage to both of them that she emerges on top; and/or (3) that the endorsement of Sen. Josh Hawley carries her across the finish line.

On the Democratic side: With only three weeks to go in the primary, the campaigns are still playing it close to the vest. Kunce is starting his TV ads now, and has a healthy war chest — but he would have preferred to save that for the general election, and he can’t match the personal wealth of Busch Valentine, who so far has limited her ad spending to St. Louis and Kansas City. Her late entry into the campaign has shuffled the deck: can the Busch name be enough to win a low-turnout primary?

Trump endorsement watch: not Hartzler

Former President Donald Trump edged closer to an endorsement and suggests he will still get involved in the Missouri Senate race before the Aug. 2 primary. In an interview with OANN, he mentions three candidates by name: Eric Grietens, Eric Schmitt and Vicky Hartzler. No reference to his loyal supporter, Billy Long.

Later Friday, on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump said he would not endorse Hartzler, and called Greitens “smart” and “tough.”

The Hartzler campaign’s response was: who needs Trump’s endorsement?

Will Trump go for a longshot candidate like Long, or will he just choose to bet on the horse with the best odds? How much will it matter to Missouri’s independent-minded voters, particularly those who might be choosing to vote in the Republican primary even though they lean Democrat?

Story continues below:

Elsewhere in the news

Whether Billy Long wins or loses, conservative southwest Missouri voters will leave a mark on US Senate race

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I am a straight shooter,” Long told the Post-Dispatch in a telephone interview. “I can tell you how the cow ate the cabbage.” Read more

Missouri GOP Senate showdown: Schmitt takes blowtorch to Biden agenda in new ad

From FoxNews: The release of the Schmitt ad comes a couple of weeks after Greitens sparked plenty of controversy and was heavily criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for a campaign video released by his team. In the ad, Greitens touts his U.S. Navy SEAL service in the video, as he is seen breaking into a house — while holding a shotgun and flanked by a tactical team — and going on what he called “RINO hunting,” encouraging the “bagging and tagging” of moderate Republicans with a “RINO hunting permit.” Read more

Old friend calls on Greitens to drop out of Missouri’s US Senate race

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch: A college friend, Ken Harbaugh, said the Greiten’s RINO-hunting ad was over the top, and could potentially incite violence against officeholders who disagree that the last presidential election was rigged. Asked to respond to Harbaugh’s criticism, the Greitens campaign issued a brief statement: “Ken is obviously a disturbed individual hoping to profit from his former friendship with the governor for 40 seconds of the leftist spotlight.” Read more

AdWars

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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 dstoeffler@sgfcitizen.org.