Today, we're taking a closer look at the U.S. Senate race in Florida, which easily takes the crown for the most insane spending of all: $128.5 million, which includes ad placements on broadcast TV, local/regional cable and satellite TV, Spanish-language local TV and radio to date by candidates' campaigns and the various groups (including PACs) that support them.*
Without further ado, here's your executive summary on the Florida race:
OK, so who's running?
Incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is facing a serious challenge from Republican Rick Scott, who has served as the 45th governor of Florida since 2011. (He can't run again because of Florida term limits on the governorship.) What makes Scott's challenge extra serious is that he's extremely wealthy ("Scott's fortune could top $500 million, according to federal filing," per Politico). He's a former healthcare executive who cofounded the Columbia Hospital Corporation, and he has not hesitated to plow millions of his own dollars into his various campaigns.
Nelson, meanwhile, has been in public office in Florida for most of the past four decades. He served in Florida's House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978 and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. He tried running for governor in 1990 but lost, then was appointed Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal of Florida (1995-2001), and then in 2001 began serving as a U.S. Senator after winning a seat vacated by a retiring Republican.
What do these guys stand for?
On his website's "Issues" page, Scott serves up a variety of wonky positions (e.g., "Supermajority Vote To Approve Any Tax Or Fee Increase") and blandly boilerplate goals (e.g., "End Government Waste," "Improve Transparency And Accountability")—but the main gist of his campaign is about running against the status quo that he feels Nelson represents. One key passage of his platform:
Governor Rick Scott's "Make Washington Work" Plan is aimed squarely at reforming the dysfunctional and tired ways of thinking in Washington in order to make it actually work for families across the nation—not just for career politicians in D.C.
Nelson's "Issues" page, meanwhile, serves up similar blandly boilerplate positions (e.g."Creating Jobs for Florida's Future," "Guaranteeing Access to Health Care," "Protecting Florida's Environment," "Working for Florida's Seniors")—but, tellingly, as of this writing the page opens with a fundraising plea that sounds like a cry for help:
Rick Scott has entered Florida's Senate race and he's planning to buy this seat so he can be a rubber stamp for a dangerous agenda. We can't let it happen. He's already flooding the state with attack ads against Bill Nelson and Democrats can't take back the Senate if Scott wins here in Florida. The best way you can fight back is by donating to help protect Florida's Senate seat and take back the Senate. Please give now!
What are their weaknesses?
In the spring, the Tampa Bay Times cited the "case against Scott" circulated among political operatives by a Democratic PAC called American Bridge 21st Century—namely that he rose to political prominence as an Obama-hater, but now, of course, has lost that particular foil (and, furthermore, is buddies with the current Oval Office occupant):
Scott began his political career in 2009 as an anti-Obamacare crusader, and staked both of his campaigns for governor on opposition to President Obama's signature health care law. He juiced Republican turnout by tossing red meat to his base in campaign ads that attacked Obama's approach, not just on Obamacare, but on immigration, Ebola, and ISIS.
As for Bill Nelson, in June the paper noted that,
Nelson hasn't had to work this hard in his past two elections against lightweight opposition. Scott as governor has higher visibility than Nelson, whose Senate career lacks a defining moment. Former Democratic state Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale worries about a growing number of younger independent voters who are newly registered and don't know Nelson.
So who's ahead?
"Poll: Scott has slight edge on Nelson in Florida Senate race," per The Hill, citing a Spectrum News poll.
Thanks, that was helpful—and that really did take me just about 90 seconds to read. But I've got a little more time. What else can you tell me?
Well, if you've got 120 more seconds, watch the four half-minute ads below. The first two show that Bill Nelson is himself no stranger to attack ads. He paints Scott as untrustworthy and, in a Spanish-language ad you don't need to speak Spanish to understand, an "amigo" of Donald Trump:
Meanwhile, these next two attack ads, from the Scott campaign, say that Bill Nelson is "all talk, no action," and that "a vote for Nelson is a vote for government waste and debt, higher taxes, chaos at the border and weakness abroad."
*ad spending from Oct. 24, 2017, through Election Day (including advance bookings) as of Sept. 3, 2018