Taking a page from the book of "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver, Philip Levine is hoping to send a message to President Donald Trump by running a campaign commercial critical of the president on FOX News in Washington D.C.
Levine's Florida gubernatorial campaign announced Monday morning that it's spending $250,000 to run a commercial around the state that smacks Florida House Speaker and likely Republican candidate for governor Richard Corcoran for an ant-sanctuary cities commercial that critics have slammed as "race-baiting." Levine is launching the commercial one day ahead of a scheduled debate between Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic rival Andrew Gillum.
Surely, Levine is hoping to steal some of the spotlight from Gillum, whose communications director threw some shade at Levine Monday morning.
"Glad to have Mayor Levine finally speak up the way Mayor Gillum did three weeks ago on Speaker Corcoran's TV ad," Geoff Burgnan said. "Floridians need a fighter like Mayor Gillum in the Governor's Mansion, not someone who waits for polling to tell him when to take a stand."
But is he also hoping to get some earned media attention of his own?
Along with the quarter-million spent in the Sunshine State — part of a roughly $2.5 million ad buy in his campaign's first four months — Levine is spending $20,000 to air the same commercial in D.C. on CNN and FOX News. The ad not only knocks Corcoran, but also goes after Trump.
"It's bad enough we hear this from a president who bullies for a living," Levine says in the ad. "What's worse are those who encourage it."
So, why would Levine spend money in Washington D.C. when he's running for governor in Florida? Senior campaign advisor Christian Ulvert told reporters in a phone conference that Levine wants to send a message to "those in DCs who continue to stoke this kind of fear and message of hate."
Or, maybe Levine is hoping a @realdonaldtrump tweet will do the same thing (in reverse) for a Democratic candidate that it did for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who became an instant contender in December when Trump appeared to endorse him on Twitter. Perhaps vitriol from Trump is as good for a Democratic candidate as love from the president is for a Republican.
"I think we all can agree that it's hard to predict what this president would do," Ulvert said.
One of Levine's Democratic rivals for governor, Andrew Gillum, responded with with a back-handed compliment, emphasizing Gillum's earlier retort to Corcoran's ad.
"Glad to have Mayor Levine finally speak up the way Mayor Gillum did three weeks ago on Speaker Corcoran's TV ad," said Geoff Burgan, Gillum's communications director. "Floridians need a fighter like Mayor Gillum in the Governor's Mansion, not someone who waits for polling to tell him when to take a stand."
Gillum has capitalized on the issue, snaring some coveted air time in a debate on Tuesday with Corcoran.