TV ad spend nears $10 million in Missouri US Senate primary • Missouri Independent

At the end of March, a Trafalgar Group survey showed that Republican Senate primary tied.

U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, at 24.9%, held a slight advantage over former Gov. Eric Greitens, with Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt close behind but all within the 3% margin of error.

Three months later, after nearly $10 million in TV ad spend as well as radio and social media buys, not much has changed. In the latest polling company surveyended June 30, Hartzler had 24%, slightly ahead of Greitens, with Schmitt within the 2.9% margin of error.

“The needle hasn’t moved much,” said Columbia College political science professor Terry Smith.

And with nearly a quarter of Republican voters constantly telling pollsters they’ll vote for the candidate who wins former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Smith said nothing is likely to change unless he takes action. .

“If nothing happened between now and Election Day in August other than normal campaigning, you would probably see the actual vote look a bit like what the polls look like,” Smith said.

The Independent reviewed Federal Communications Commission records of 34 full-powered television stations serving the state and found that of the eight leading party candidates in the US Senate primary running full-fledged campaigns, only four won. time directly. Five political action committees also run ads to influence the race.

Of the $9.6 million spent on TV ads since Jan. 1, all but $227,000 was spent on spots aired after the March poll by Trafalgar Group.

Trudy Busch Valentine is the only candidate in the 11-person Democratic field with on-air ads. Valentine, the Anheuser-Busch beer heiress who entered the Democratic primary race in late March, spent $822,135 on the St. Louis and Kansas City spots. She did not report the fundraising total, but she did personal wealth from $67.5 million to $214.7 million.

Lucas Kunce, a Democrat who had raised $3.3 million as of March 31, will begin ad buying this week, said Connor Lounsbury, Kunce’s campaign spokesman.

Otherwise, all spending so far has been aimed at swaying Republican voters.

That includes nearly $850,000 spent by Missouri Stands United, a PAC formed by former Sen. Jack Danforth, asking voters to turn away from the Republican field and support an independent candidate.

The biggest spender is Save Missouri Values, the PAC that backs Schmitt. The PAC, which raised $4.5 million, spent just under $2 million on TV ads that aired in every market in the state. Schmitt’s campaign committee, which raised $2.9 million, spent $539,000 on TV ads, all in the St. Louis TV market, where Schmitt is best known.

The totals for other campaign and PAC expenses are:

  • The PAC team, which backs former Governor Eric Greitens, spent $1.7 million. PAC received a $2.5 million donation in 2021 from Richard Uihlein, whom Politico identified as a CEO of a billion dollar shipping and industrial supply company. Greitens, who raised $1.8 million for his campaign committee, had $345,000 on hand on March 31 and bought no television time.
  • Show Me Values ​​PAC, which opposes Greitens, spent $1.5 million. The PAC, formed in early June, did not report total fundraising.
  • Hartzler has spent $1.3 million from his campaign committee, which has raised $2.9 million since the start of 2021 and had $1.5 million as of March 31. There is no super PAC supporting Hartzler.
  • Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz spent $642,560 from his campaign committee, which announced in April that it had raised $2.2 million, including a $2 million loan from the candidate . There is no super PAC supporting Schatz.
  • WinMo PAC, backing U.S. Representative Billy Long, has spent $156,775 of the $227,000 it has raised since the start of 2021. Long, who raised $1.5 million and had $500,000 on hand on March 31, wasted no time with his campaign fund.

Based on recent purchases, Hartzler is on the air in the St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield markets. After making early purchases in smaller markets like Cape Girardeau and Joplin, Hartzler is focusing on heavily populated areas.

Schatz, which began ad buying in late May, made no purchases in the Kansas City market.

“In a multi-candidate race, where your goal is to get 30% to 33% of the vote, to win the primary, you have to find media markets where you connect with the voters or the issues you’re talking about. really resonate,” the Republican said. consultant James Harris, who is not associated with any campaign. “And you have to ignore certain areas.”

A Republican candidate ignores the Springfield market at his peril, Harris said.

“Everyone will be targeting Southwest Missouri because it’s really a voting honeypot,” Harris said.

Most campaigns buy time during news broadcasts, anticipating that viewers are the most engaged voters.

But sometimes the purchased program itself can be part of the message.

During the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the PAC team spent $20,000 to air a single spot on every NBC affiliate in the state. challenge Schmitt’s China record.

And the Missouri Stands United ad, where Danforth takes on the Republican Party he helped make the dominant force statewide, airs during Family Feud on KDNL in St. Louis, which has no local news. .

Republican consultant John Hancock, who worked for Hartzler’s campaign, said managing media buys is a constant challenge.

“Every campaign and every PAC that buys media has a media buyer working on their behalf,” he said. “Among their other duties, they constantly monitor competing ads running in the state and district and communicate them to the campaign.”

Campaigns and PACs are not allowed to coordinate their purchases. But by monitoring audience movements, such as ad buy filings with the FCC, they can make tactical decisions about where to run ads, Hancock said.

For example, Save Missouri Values ​​only spent $213,000 of its $1.9 million on the St. Louis Media Market, the state’s largest. But it’s also where Schmitt has spent all of his TV budget so far.

Candidates’ committees have a big advantage over PACs when it comes to obtaining airtime and the price paid for spots. Stations must sell ads to campaigns, overriding regular advertisers if necessary to air them at the requested time. PACs have no similar right to the airwaves.

And, Hancock noted, campaigns get the lowest published rate for the purchased program. The cost to run an advertisement is based on the number of viewers likely to see it.

For example, a 30-second ad on the 10 p.m. newscast on KSHB in Kansas City costs campaigns $400. For PACs, the price is $880.

A PAC “will always be less effective,” Hancock said. “Sometimes it’s much less effective.”

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