JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Outside groups have noticed Missouri’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race and poured millions of dollars into influencing the outcome.

More than $37 million has been spent from outside groups financing advertisements on both sides of the aisle trying to influence the outcome of the race that could potentially determine the majority party in the Senate, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is locked in a neck-and-neck race with Republican candidate Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. A recent Fox News poll showed the two-party candidates to be tied, while a CNN poll published last week had McCaskill slightly in the lead but within the margin of error. A poll released by Missouri Rising showed Hawley up 52-44 over McCaskill.

The majority of the outside money being spent is on ruthless advertisements attempting to paint one of the candidates in a negative light. Recently, the NRA launched a seven-figure television ad campaign blasting McCaskill’s record on firearms while EMILY’s List released a seven-figure ad campaign rallying against Hawley for his stance on health care.

Missouri Rising Action also announced a new $1 million grassroots initiative focused on turning out voters to help Hawley beat McCaskill with the poll. The initiative will launch this week, and run through the final hours of voting on November 6th.

“These fresh numbers indicate that Josh Hawley is gaining momentum at exactly the right time as Missouri voters tune into this important race,” said Brian Rogers, Executive Director of Missouri Rising Action. “The Democrats’ hysterical attacks on Judge Kavanaugh have hurt Democrats like Claire McCaskill whose states voted decisively for President Trump in 2016. This will be a tight race, but Missourians are now more ready than ever to replace Claire McCaskill with a senator who will represent their values and interests in Washington – Josh Hawley.”

NRA, EMILY’s List spend big in Missouri’s US Senate race

The non-profit Center for Responsive Politics’s report details nearly $21 million having been spent in ads opposing McCaskill’s re-election bid while $14 million has been spent opposing Hawley’s challenge. Far less money has been spent advocating for either candidate, with outside groups spending $2 million in support of McCaskill and nearly $200,000 in support of Hawley.

“Claire McCaskill is one of Chuck Schumer’s top targets this year,” Kelli Ford, spokesperson for the Hawley campaign, said. “Control of the Senate will come down to Missouri and he will do and spend whatever it takes to protect her liberal vote in Washington.”

The big spenders on the Republican side are the Senate Leadership Fund at roughly $8 million, the National Republican Senatorial Committee at $5.2 million, and Americans for Prosperity at $3.8 million. On the Democratic side, the Senate Majority PAC has spent nearly $8 million, Priorities USA Action has spent $3 million, and Majority Forward has spent nearly $3 million.

“Mitch McConnell’s DC-based outside groups have spent millions on behalf of their golden boy Josh Hawley because they know he will rubber stamp their agenda,” said McCaskill for Missouri Press Secretary Eric Mee. “Meanwhile, Claire always puts hard-working Missourians first and strongly opposes allowing unlimited dark money in campaigns. Hawley has been endorsed by Citizens United, the group that brought unlimited and anonymous money into politics, while Claire has been endorsed by End Citizens United.”

In terms of outside spending for the 2018 election cycle, Florida’s U.S. Senate race has seen the next highest level of money coming in with $32.8 million and Arizona’s U.S. Senate race follows that with $30.9 million.

Yet, the figures have yet to come close to the amount of money groups poured into the 2016 races. Over $51 million of outside money was spent in Missouri’s race between Sen. Roy Blunt and Secretary of State Jason Kander — which saw the seventh most amount of money for U.S. Senate races.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.