(Missouri Independent) – On Sunday evening, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Tennessee Titans in a game essential to both teams’ hopes to enter the NFL playoffs with the best record in their conference.
With Election Day approaching on Tuesday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Schmitt is targeting the enormous hometown audience expected to tune in with his final ad buy of the campaign — shelling out $75,000 for a single ad that will air during the broadcast on Kansas City’s KSHB-TV.
Overall, Schmitt has spent $2.1 million on broadcast advertising for the fall campaign. His Democratic opponent, Trudy Busch Valentine, has more than doubled that amount, spending $4.8 million.
But it appears that Valentine’s spending, mainly from her own vast wealth, has not altered her position as an underdog in the race. Schmitt had a lead of nine to 14 percentage points in four recent polls, a margin that has not changed significantly since the first head-to-head polls after the Aug. 2 primary.
The Independent has been tracking broadcast ad spending by candidates seeking state and federal offices in collaboration with the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Using television and radio station reports to the Federal Communications Commission, the tracking shows spending on Tuesday’s election will be only a fraction of the 2018 Senate race when Republican Josh Hawley defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in a campaign where total spending exceeded $125 million.
Fall spending this year has also been far less than what was spent for the primaries. In the two Senate primaries, candidates and outside groups combined to spend $19.5 million on television advertising and more than $50 million total.
Neither Schmitt nor Valentine began their fall television campaigns until the end of September. Spending has accelerated, especially from Valentine, as Election Day approached.
In recent weeks, Schmitt received some help from the political action committee that was the biggest spender of the primary campaign.
Save Missouri Values has spent $1 million on television ads since Oct. 26, much of it in smaller markets outside the Kansas City and St. Louis areas. It spent $3.3 million on television ads and $5.3 million overall to help Schmitt win the Republican nomination.
The PAC’s recent ads have promoted Schmitt as a counterweight to Democratic President Joe Biden, noting his lawsuits against the administration as Missouri attorney general and showing images of Schmitt visiting the Mexican border to demonstrate his opposition to Biden’s immigration policies.
Schmitt has also been helped by $260,000 spent on his behalf by the Missouri Republican State Committee and $105,000 spent on television ads by a group called Crypto Innovation.
Until Save Missouri Values began spending, Valentine had no ads running in the state’s smallest markets, opting to concentrate on the major metro areas along with the Columbia and Springfield markets. She has made up for that this week, spending $1.6 million statewide since Monday and making ad buys in Joplin, Cape Girardeau and northeast Missouri.
Overall, Valentine has spent $952,000 outside the major metro areas since the primary.
Her ads focus on two issues – the impact of Missouri’s abortion ban, implemented by a proclamation issued by Schmitt following June’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and Schmitt’s votes to allow foreign ownership of Missouri farmland.
There are only two other contests on Tuesday’s ballot where spending on television has exceeded $1 million in ad spending.
Legal Missouri, which is promoting Amendment 3 legalizing the recreational use and commercial sale of marijuana, has spent $1.1 million on broadcast ads. There is no organized group spending to defeat Amendment 3, but it has strong critics including St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, the Missouri Farm Bureau, and the Missouri NAACP.
And the most expensive legislative race of the year will be the 24th District state Senate race, pitting state Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, against Republican George Hruza. The winner will replace term-limited Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp.
Hruza has spent $641,000 on broadcast ads and his effort has been boosted by another $296,000 spent by the Senate Majority PAC, the GOP’s state Senate campaign committee. McCreery has spent $556,000, a PAC dedicated to supporting her has added $215,000 and Majority Forward, the Senate Democratic campaign committee, has spent $272,000 on broadcast ads.
The only other statewide contest, for state auditor, could be the cheapest statewide election in recent decades. Neither State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, the Republican nominee, nor former state Rep. Alan Green, the Democratic candidate, has purchased any broadcast ads in advance of Tuesday’s vote.
Trudy Bush Valentine left, and Eric Schmitt (campaign photos)