If you subscribe to the outdated – and wrong – conventional wisdom that endorsements make frontrunners and “raised money means more than personal money,” this assessment of the Florida Attorney General race is not for you. Recent polling has the race knotted up within the margin of error, with a supermajority of Republican voters -61.7 percent – still undecided.
If you’re familiar with the trajectory of statewide campaigns in Florida in the last decade or so, you know that cash is king and spending it early can help move some of those undecided voters.
The single most affective argument the Ashley Moody campaign could make since Frank White entered the race – that he’s not really going to spend the money – is now gone. White is on television before qualifying, with a million dollars just through the end of June, as part of what his campaign promises is a sustained TV plan through the primary.
Anyone making the argument that it’s wasting money to go up early would do well to remember Charlie Crist’s 100 Day plan when he ran for attorney general. Those 100 days defined Crist early and allowed him to begin taking the bark off of Tom Gallagher before Gallagher even went up on TV.
Still not convinced that Frank White is for real? Then recall how a no-name upstart named Rick Scott went up early and took a commanding lead that ultimately became the undoing of establishment favorite Bill McCollum. Ashley Moody and Jay Fant supporters may try to comfort themselves with the fact that Scott spent several orders of magnitude more money in a week than White is spending on his first television buy. And indeed, volume makes a huge difference.
But so does the ratio of spending versus one’s opponent.
Frank White currently has a 2-to-1 cash on hand advantage over Moody and Fant. Which means White has 100% more money to reach voters. Even if Moody or Fant start posting higher fundraising numbers, White still has the ability to spend whatever it takes to carry out an aggressive strategy for his campaign.
Some observers and especially the media like to distinguish between “personal money” and “raised money.” Guess who doesn’t care one bit? TV stations cashing Frank White’s checks.
For nearly a year, Moody’s campaign has built an impressive echo chamber in Florida’s political establishment and mainstream media on the premise that endorsements matter. And indeed, Pam Bondi’s endorsement in a GOP primary is nice one to have. But how many times do we have to watch the endorsement miscalculation play out? All too often, endorsements turn out to be nothing more than a barometer of who the endorsers thought were going to win at the time they made the endorsement.
If Frank White continues on this trajectory and wins the GOP nomination in August, this first television spot and the million dollars behind it will be remembered as the moment he solidified his path to victory.