How much does it cost for a senator to skip a debate? Around $1.1 million, apparently.

Tina Smith, the former Planned Parenthood lobbyist appointed to replace disgraced Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., didn’t show up for a televised debate with her Republican challenger, state Sen. Karin Housley. Now, the DSCC is apparently dropping a bucket of money in Minnesota to make up for the omission and make sure this doesn't become another Republican pickup opportunity.

The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC spent $400,000 on digital ads earlier this week, and now the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is opening up an insurance policy. According to a Minnesota media consultant, the DSCC is expected to spend $700,000 on local ads that will run from Nov. 1 until Election Day. All of this has Republicans giddy.

After debating an empty lectern on live television, Housley has reason to be optimistic. The outside money signals real fears that maybe a former Planned Parenthood lobbyist can’t get re-elected by blowing off constituents. New and old polling certainly confirms that the race is tightening.

The most recent survey of 800 likely voters by the Star Tribune had Housley trailing Smith by just six points. On its own, that is remarkable in a race that wasn't supposed to get interesting, but it is even more alarming in light of how fast President Trump closed the gap at the end of the last presidential election, losing to Hillary Clinton by a surprisingly thin 1.5 percentage points.