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Winning the Messaging Battle, Part I
Tipsheet

Is This a Sign That Florida Isn’t a Key Battleground State Anymore?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Rep. Val Demmings (D-FL) is described as a “dream” candidate in a recent Politico piece about the upcoming Florida Senate election. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is up for re-election. Most polls have Rubio beating Demmings—badly. It’s not even close. So, what gives? Well, no one wants to spend money there right now. Please put emphasis on ‘right now.’ That’s going to change, though outside observers say this points to the Sunshine State not being the key battleground state it once was. Maybe that’s true. There have been massive shifts to the GOP in the state. For now, there’s been no scheduled ad buys in the fall. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has raised a boatload of cash that he will use to help his party down-ticket. Yet, the issue selection could be a problem for Democrats as well. As for Rubio, well, buried in the piece is the hint that he could get minimal help from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but it’s still very early(via Politico):

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“This is my race. And this race is between Marco Rubio and me,” Demings said in an interview. “I know Marco wants me to focus on the president’s approval ratings. I can control what I’m doing. I can’t control the president’s approval ratings.”

Yet as a sign of how gloomy Florida looks for Democrats, neither the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nor a super PAC that backs Senate Democrats has reserved any ad time in the state. Demings may not get any measurable help in a state that may be slipping away from her party.

She’s now focusing on two issues in the hopes of energizing voters, though political advisers warn it may be a losing proposition. It’s another sign that the key Senate race may be out of reach for Democrats, further jeopardizing the party’s control of Congress.

Demings has started to hammer Rubio over gun control and abortion in an effort to turn the tide in a race where polls have shown her trailing the two-term Republican. She has spent time in recent campaign stops highlighting Rubio’s opposition to abortion after the disclosure of the Supreme Court’s initial draft opinion overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

[…]

Abortion and guns have emerged as flashpoints for Democrats nationally. But a May poll by Florida Atlantic University showed that, while 67 percent of Floridians believe that abortion should remain legal in all or most cases, only 39 percent of those surveyed called it a high priority. More respondents were focused on cost of living/inflation, the war in Ukraine and education. While there have been no recent polls in Florida on guns, a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted the day after the Texas shooting found that 65 percent of voters nationally were in favor of stricter gun control laws.

Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster in South Florida, said he wasn’t sure that the two issues have the “potency” needed to jolt the race.

“To just talk about the abortion issue and gun control feels like already plotted ground,” Amandi said.

[…]

Shortly after Demings jumped into the race, the DSCC last year included Florida on a list of states the organization said it would invest in ground operations ahead of the election. Since then, however, the GOP overtook Democrats among active registered voters and DeSantis has raised tens of millions of dollars that he’ll likely use to push Republicans to the polls this fall.

So far, Florida appears to be hands off, although some Republicans expect that to change. A recent analysis by AdImpact shows no statewide candidate other than DeSantis has made ad reservations for the fall — yet another warning that Florida has lost its status as the nation’s biggest battleground state.

A super PAC backing Rubio started airing ads this week in the contested Tampa area hammering Demings as a Pelosi acolyte as part of a $1.5 million effort. However, Chris Hartline, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was non-committal about whether the organization — led by fellow Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott — would be placing large ad buys in the state.

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That statement from the NRSC does circle back to some of the internal drama with Scott at the helm but that’s for another time. The truth is if Rubio maintains this advantage, that money can be spent elsewhere. Democrats admitting that abortion and guns won’t be top issues come November is also telling. They know these issues will fade and don’t have the legs to put them over the top. The same logic applies to the January 6 hearings. No one cares about that. People are anxious about the economy which Democrats can’t campaign on because Joe Biden has done zero favors there. A recession is coming, and Democrats seem to be resigned to the fact that this year will be devastating, even for decent candidates like Val Demmings.  

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