Even though Senator Bill Nelson was first elected to public office some 46 years ago, it’s a safe bet that the campaign ad launched today by Governor Rick Scott is the hardest Nelson’s ever been punched – rhetorically that is. Scott launched a brilliantly crafted ad that doesn’t bother to mention Nelson – because it doesn’t need to. In it, Scott says that of the roughly 41,000 zip codes in the United States, all but one of them support term limits for politicians in Congress. That one zip code he claims doesn’t support them? Washington D.C.
Never mind that D.C. has a few dozen zip codes. Scott probably would welcome getting fact checked on that ad, because all it would do is garner more coverage of the term limits issue.
And even though the ad doesn’t mention Nelson by name, it’s an obvious campaign dagger aimed straight at who Nelson is: a career politician who has held power since Richard Nixon was president.
The ad effectively frames the debate exactly the way Scott wants, contrasting his own relative freshness against Bill Nelson’s stale political career. And it’s probably safe to say that Nelson has never faced a $2 million ad buy right out of the gate as the opening salvo of a political campaign.
Over the course of his senate career, Nelson has spent a grand total of about $40 million, which includes $6 million spent to defeat Bill McCollum, and a pair of races against Connie (Hooter’s Fighter) Mack IV and Katherine Harris, in which Nelson played it safe both times, spending about $17 million in each race. Nelson cruised to an easy victory in both contests.
Now though, Rick Scott has opened the race with $2 million. That’s a third of what Nelson spent against McCollum, which also happens to be the closest race Nelson’s ever had. To add some current context, the total media spending in the 2018 governor’s race by a group opposing Ron DeSantis, which has saturated Florida’s radio airwaves and Fox News for the past three weeks, has yet to break the million-dollar mark.
If Scott’s ad has even a small bit of success moving the needle against Nelson, you can bet he’ll will double down on the buy, develop several new iterations of the ad, and blast it into living rooms, cars and mobile devices across the state.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) already knows that saving Bill Nelson is going to be an expensive endeavor, and at some point, they’re going to ask themselves if their national fundraising dollars aren’t better invested in a different race where their investment might be less risky and prospects for winning a bit better. As long as Nelson maintains a believable lead in their internal polling, he’s likely to continue getting support. But if Scott’s ad blitz starts to eat into that lead, or even flip it to Scott’s advantage, the DSCC might pull the plug on Nelson’s long and undistinguished career.
Here’s the ad: