Republican Roy Blunt is retiring in 2022.
This race is shaping up to be one of the most compelling primaries since the ‘16 gubernatorial primary and before that, the ‘92 gubernatorial primary. It will be almost impossible to find someone able to fill the shoes of the Missouri legend, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt. His accomplishments are too numerous to even list here, and his successor could spend a career working diligently and never do more for Missouri than he has, but let’s look at those vying to give it a shot.
Former Gov. Eric Greitens
It’s really hard to put much stock in polling this early, and I think everyone has learned not to never believe polling produced by a candidate, but you have to think this race started with former Gov. Eric Greitens around 40 percent. His name ID from his previous campaign and his arrests and quitting his job as governor has to be close to 100 percent, and he was the first candidate in the race. However, you knew that would be his high watermark. Where that floor is now is the question, and you have to think that every new candidate that gets in the race probably increases his odds even slightly.
His appeal will be to anyone angry about anything; he will be their guy. Now, I know what you’re thinking — that Republican primaries have lots of family values voters. Well, we learned from early ‘18 that many of them are just simply lying about caring about values. It will be interesting to see how many of them are with Greitens this time, and watch everyone snicker if they ever mention the word values again.
When this race began, I figured his ceiling was around 33-35 percent and his floor was somewhere around 25 percent, and I’d still figure that he can’t get more than 35 percent of Republican primary voters down in that basement, but as the campaign has gone on, I tend to think his floor may be a little lower, around 20 percent or so. His own polling shows he is down to 36 percent, so you can figure it currently stands quite a bit lower in reality.
His fundraising has been pretty lackluster in comparison to his ‘16 run, and he seems to have problems with getting successful people to have their name publicly attached to his on an FEC report. However, his spending seems to entail paying anyone who has ever met Donald Trump to tweet something nice about him which has led to a huge burn rate — leaving him, as of today, with little more than $50,000 to spend. His PAC got a huge boost last quarter to try and change the narrative, and another distraction might be in order this month.
Thus far, the campaign has been unimpressive with him traveling anywhere in the country not to be around Missourians. It reminds me of the unfocused vanity show that his gubernatorial campaign was before Austin Chambers arrived in the state. There was no doubt he became a terrific politician, but the early months were a lot like this. He did pull a flash of the old Greitens when, hearing that some allies of Senator Mitch McConnell were unlikely to help his campaign, he publicly came out against the Republican Senate leader. You know in some ways Washington almost deserves him. I suppose there are some Missourians who don’t expect the candidate to actually show up in, you know, Missouri, but are there enough be duct-taped to his campaign?
If he hits his ceiling of 35 percent he wins; if it lands near a floor of 20 percent he loses. What if he ends up with 27 percent?
Contributions this period: $378,749
Contributions this cycle: $754,031
Cash on hand: $200,802
Cash on hand minus debt: $57,374
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt
In the beginning, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s campaign’s success was mostly seen in fundraising, but he has developed a new strategy of: wake up in the morning, sue Joe Biden, go to bed, and repeat.
And it’s working.
The strategy was maligned by some at first. Then, he scored a huge win in court over St. Louis County and has seen his campaign begin to take off.
From his social media to his Lincoln Day speeches to his air time on national cable outlets to his fundraising, he has clear momentum in this race early on.
Speaking of fundraising he led the field with $650K this quarter — twice what Greitens raised — and has over $1 million in the bank after his debts. That combined with his Save Missouri Values PAC (which reportedly has over $1.5 million on hand) gives him the early fundraising lead. If this race will come down to Greitens vs. a Republican without sexual assault baggage, Schmitt is making a strong early case to be that Republican.
Contributions this period: $651,825
Contributions this cycle: $1,986,220
Cash on hand: $1,199,448
Cash on hand minus debt: $1,090,110
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler is doing everything she needs to do at this stage to set up her shot next summer. She is racking up endorsements of evangelical conservatives including Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America; Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Maggie’s List; David Barton; and former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Those combined with what she hopes will be support in the agricultural community and the fact that she is the only woman in the race, means she will have a real shot next year.
If she can consolidate that base of evangelicals, women, and the ag community, then she could be the candidate to step forward if the two Erics unload their multi-million dollar war chests against each other.
She brought in around $450K this quarter, but the strength of her fundraising comes from the large bankroll she had on hand before the race began. With $1.6 million, she has the largest hard money war chest of the race, and she isn’t spending hers as fast as others in the race. She has a PAC forming called Americans for Conservative Government, and legendary Missourian Peter Herschend is having an event next month for it.
Contributions this period: $446,299
Contributions this cycle: $1,507,234
Cash on hand: $1,651,443
Cash on hand minus debt: $1,644,602
Congressman Billy Long
Congressman Billy Long posted a healthy quarter raising over half a million dollars. I’ve always said that if every Missourian sat down and spent 10 minutes with all of the candidates, Billy Long would be the frontrunner.
He has a simple message of being fed up, and his congressional district is a tremendous base to launch a five-way Republican primary out of. I think the real test will be his fundraising next quarter to see where he is in the race.
Contributions this period: $552,797
Contributions this cycle: $857,595
Cash on hand: $539,853
Cash on hand minus debt: $539,853
There is undeniable enthusiasm in this race for Mark McCloskey. He is a hit at Lincoln Days and folks actually sit up and listen to his speeches. The question will be: Can he take all of those folks who want a picture with him for their Facebook pages and turn them into activists supporting his campaign?
He raised a quarter-million dollars which is great for someone not in office, but that burn rate is going to raise some eyebrows.
The campaign has had some turnover internally, and first-time efforts are usually a learning experience. But if McCloskey can get his campaign organized to focus the enthusiasm into actually helping him get votes, then he will be a real force in this race. Imagine where he would be in this race if he just put on a pink shirt and took that AR with him everywhere?
Contributions this period: $260,724
Contributions this cycle: $821,979
Cash on hand: $92,146
Cash on hand minus debt: $92,146
Former state Sen. Scott Sifton
Scott Sifton is a tremendous candidate, maybe the most effective Democratic state senator of the last decade, and honestly, the party leadership probably should have cleared this field for him. But there is a reason Missouri Democrats are in the shape they are in.
He will have the support of most in labor and the trial bar. He has been hitting the road, and I’ve even seen him start to make some news show spots.
Remember, Sifton was one of the first suburban candidates to win a primary as the pro-choice candidate against a pro-life Catholic Democrat. Then he flipped that state Senate seat in 2012, defeating an incumbent.
He is a callback to Gov. Nixon or Senator McCaskill, you remember, when Democrats were actually competitive in statewide races. However, it appears he is going to have to empty his coffers to win this primary.
Contributions this period: $222,210
Contributions this cycle: $718,501
Cash on hand: $156,957
Cash on hand minus debt: $156,957
This dude can fundraise. Lucas Kunce is a former Democratic candidate for state representative from Jeff City — losing to local hero Mark Bruns no less — and a Marine veteran who has done an amazing job of raising money with $850K this quarter and more than $1.7 million overall.
While he is raising money, he is spending it, too, with just over $670K on hand. However, a lot of it is from his small-dollar donors who he can stack up and go back to as the race unfolds, but they are costly to identify and develop.
He is doing all he can to attach his campaign and its viability to that of Jason Kander’s 2016 run and is attacking pretty much everyone in Washington, even calling himself an outsider.
I’m thinking that his fundraising pace might not continue as it is, but it will continue, and he is clearly in the race to stay. The question that he and really everyone on the Democratic side have to ask themselves is: While your running, praying you get to run against Eric Greitens, can you compete if one of the Republicans not accused of sexual assault is the nominee?
Contributions this period: $849,206
Contributions this cycle: $1,743,633
Cash on hand: $670,241
Cash on hand minus debt: $670,241
He is an interesting Democratic candidate. While his fundraising numbers are not competitive, Spencer Toder says he is trying a “new and innovative” approach of trying to help people with his resources.
This quarter he raised $45K and used a lot of it to fill storage units with supplies to aid refugees from Afghanistan. He has seemed to focus his time on meeting with and recruiting activists to help his efforts. I guess we will see if the innovative approach is successful, and he is becoming interesting to watch.
Contributions this period: $12,003
Contributions this cycle: $45,355
Cash on hand: $9,207
Cash on hand minus debt: -$91,287
Nice guy, very nice guy. However, Timothy Shepard’s campaign is struggling. He lost most of his staff a few weeks ago with some going public in attacking him. Now he hasn’t filled out an FEC report, and his Twitter account is complaining about money in politics. U.S. Senate races are very, very hard.
Contributions this period: N/A
Contributions this cycle: N/A
Cash on hand: N/A
Cash on hand minus debt: N/A
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.