Sunday, September 23, 2018

Democratic PAC targets Scott’s Senate chances

Campaigns and pollsters periodically release to donors and reporters "memos" arguing why their candidate is in terrific shape to win the election, even when their candidate’s prospects are hopeless. Last week, the Democratic group American Bridge 21st Century released one not so subtly titled, "Why Rick Scott Can’t Win in 2018."

Scott will make his long-expected Senate candidacy official Monday, and the memo reads like a last-ditch effort to convince Scott not to run against three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. But it also makes strong and valid points, particularly about how the political climate is vastly different this year than when Scott squeaked to victory in 2010 and 2014 during GOP wave elections.

"Rick Scott’s decision to run for U.S. Senate will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in recent Florida political history. Scott’s two razor-thin wins were dependent on a base-first strategy that only works in Republican wave years," American Bridge wrote.

"Without backlash against the White House to rely on, Scott will no doubt resort to spending millions on negative ads — but in 2010 and 2014, after twice setting a record for spending in a Florida campaign, Scott won the lowest number of votes of all the statewide Republicans on the ballot. The pattern is clear: Even when Republicans have done well, Rick Scott has struggled. It is too early to tell if the Democratic wave in 2018 will be a surge or a tsunami, but one thing is clear: It will be too strong for Rick Scott to overcome."

The counter argument is that Nelson, also known as "the Luckiest Politician in Florida," hasn’t faced a tough opponent since Lawton Chiles trounced him for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1990. Plus, polls show a vast chunk of Florida’s electorate is barely familiar with Nelson, meaning a well-funded opponent like Scott has an opportunity to define him as a liberal tax-loving monster.

At this point, Nelson versus Scott looks like a coin toss.

Big spenders

Even without Scott’s money, history indicates the 2018 U.S. Senate race will be a very, very expensive affair.

When Nelson first ran for the office in 2000, spending topped out at $19.3 million, according to a recap by opensecrets.org.

In the 2016 Florida Senate race won by Marco Rubio, spending hit $110.5 million.

That’s a 472 percent increase in 16 years. And it illustrates the rise of outside spending. During the time, such spending increased from $2.4 million to $50.6 million.

Get out the vote

Billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America group is joining an array of liberal groups for a voter registration drive Tuesday aimed at young people.

Tampa is among 13 events in Florida, part of 200 to be held across the country, according to NextGen America. The University of Tampa event will begin at 11 a.m. and is themed "Vote for the Planet."

Others events will take place at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, FSU, UF, FAMU, USF, Florida Southern College, UCF, Stetson, FAU, Palm Beach State College, University of Miami and FIU.

Fast fundraising

Donna Shalala has been campaigning to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, for less than a month and already she’s raised more than $1 million, her campaign announced Thursday.

Her first-quarter total — an eye-popping number even for the woman who helped raised billions for the University of Miami — immediately gives her one of the fattest war chests in a crowded Democratic primary. The funds should help her capitalize on her name, which an internal campaign poll showed is well-known in the district following years of work at the university and as Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton.

"The moment she officially announced her intentions to run for this seat, contributors at all levels and across party lines eagerly stepped forward to assist the campaign with their financial support," Fernand Amandi, a consultant for the Shalala campaign, said in a statement.

Philosophy flip

Sen. Rubio has seen the wisdom of philosophy.

As a presidential candidate in 2015, he declared: "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers."

But Rubio recently said he’d changed his mind and that he started reading the Stoics. "I’ve changed my view on philosophy. But not on welders. We need both!" he tweeted.

The Federalist, a conservative online magazine, last week called out Rubio’s change of heart, while praising him for making it.

"Maybe he actually listened to those of us who argued back in defense of philosophy. Or maybe Rubio is just another flip-flopping politician who was against philosophy before he was for it," wrote Robert Tracinski, who studied philosophy at the University of Chicago. "Whatever the case, he’s right this time around. We do need philosophers, and what has happened in the past three years demonstrates all the more seriously why we need them."

Alex Leary and David Smiley contributed to this week’s Buzz.

 
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