Analysis of Florida gubernatorial candidate ads for DeSantis, Crist, Fried

Political advertising can be boring, repetitive, and of little use in deciding how we should vote, but it’s fun to read tactics in the posts candidates present.

We’ll see a lot of ads on TV, on social media, and in our mailboxes in the weeks leading up to the Florida primaries. After an all-too-brief lull, once the nominees are selected, the barrage of bragging and bashing will intensify in the fall.

This is not a very good way to select important government officials and we should view anything they say about themselves or their opponents with great skepticism. How they market themselves to voters is no indication of how they will govern, but it is interesting to see what the candidates think is important to themselves, as opposed to what voters might care.

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Let’s start with charlie christ, simply because it’s been around so long and run around so many times. The former governor’s campaign to become the future governor of Florida is based primarily on attacking current governor Ron DeSantis. Crist has a primary with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on August 23, but he’s acting wisely like it’s November already.

Crist hit the airwaves first. His spots intersect with the relaxed and affable Charlie interacting with ordinary citizens – contrasting with his worried and sad face as he discusses DeSantis “bullying” school children for wearing masks at a press conference. “Fighting back” is the takeaway from Crist’s ad.

For fried, the message is “something new”. It’s undeniable – Florida has never had a woman in the office of Governor, nor a Democrat in the past quarter century. She aired her first TV spot last week, showing her walking among rows of white, male and blue mannequins and saying, “Florida has had 46 governors – some good, some bad and some, depends on which direction the wind blows.”

That last line is spoken with a tilt of the head and a flippant gesture toward a silver-haired model — a not-so-subtle reference to Crist, who has been less than consistent in his stances for more than 30 years as a Republican, Independent, and now a Democrat.

The June 24 Supreme Court ruling on abortion has become almost the focus of Fried’s campaign, especially reminding women of Crist’s long career as a “pro-life” Republican. But Crist pretty much ignores it, saying he now agrees with Democratic Party dogma on this issue.

Clearly, Fried sees his task as beating Crist this month, while Crist skips the primary and beats DeSantis. It’s smart for both, but not very informative for voters.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addresses attendees at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Friday, July 22, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

DeSantis, untroubled by a primary hurdle, recently started his general election run with a feel-good ad with her fan mail. The governor is shown in classrooms waving to friendly crowds, appreciating cards and letters as voices of children and parents thank him for keeping Florida open during the pandemic and taking conservative stances . The word “freedom” echoes through the 60-second spot.

Any discussion of issues or attacks on Crist (or perhaps Fried) will come later.

After:Florida Democrats urge Senator Marco Rubio to fight gun violence following Texas shooting

Strategic imagery is also important in the US Senate campaign, with each candidate starting with crime and public safety.

Democratic Congressman Val Demings speaks during a press conference before formally submitting his candidacy for the United States Senate on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the Republican seeking a third term in Washington, wants voters to worry about Rep. Val Demings’ law-and-order bona fides. She’s a former Orlando police chief, who has pledged to be “a cop on alert” in the Senate, so she made it the opening bet of her campaign pitch.

Demings’ ad features photos from her career in law enforcement as she promises never to defund the police. “It’s just crazy,” she says.

She also has an ad that lambastes Rubio’s Senate attendance record – concluding that if you don’t show up for work, you lose your job.

Rubio came out with guns blazing in his re-election effort. Amid fast-paced video of last year’s riots, Rubio has a succession of Florida sheriffs who challenge Demings on her strongest point – law and order – and call her “just another buffer in radical rubber” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Compared to many past campaigns, the ads we’ve seen so far haven’t been obnoxious. But they are just starting to warm up.

Bill Cotterel

Bill Cotterell is a retired journalist from the Democratic capital of Tallahassee who writes a column twice a week. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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