After months of negative ads savaging Democrat Charlie Crist, Gov. Rick Scott has been slowly running more positive spots, including the latest one where he essentially takes his opponent to task for running.... negative ads.
"After all these attack ads, Charlie Crist wants you to hate me," Scott says. "I guess that's all he's got."
For a while, it was all that Scott had.
When Crist entered the race in November, Scott ran $1 million in negative ads featuring all the bad things Democrats once called the former Republican, Crist. And ever since cranking up his full-time ad machine in March, Scott and his supporters have outspent Crist and his backers $44 million to about $19.7 million. It's now a $65 million -- and growing -- ad race.
Almost all the spending has been negative, on both sides. But Scott
The Republican-leaning firm 0ptimus has modeled the ads that each side has analyzed the ads on broadcast TV in each major Florida market for the past nine weeks and found that likely voters in Florida have at least glimpsed 2.1 million ads bashing Crist and 1.7 million ads bashing Scott
So Scott's negative impressions outnumber Crist's by 26 percent in the past nine weeks.
But data on a blog are one thing. What matters in a campaign is what you have on TV. And what Scott has is an effective ad on multiple fronts:
1) Scott is talking directly to camera, not running over his words and not looking uncomfortable as he has in unscripted moments with the press.
2) It's essentially a positive spot. Yes, Scott is defending himself and sort of attacking Crist for attacking him, but it tells the story Scott wants to tell in favorable terms.
3) It seeks to change the narrative in an effort to make the re-election not a referendum on the incumbent.
"The race is not about Charlie. Or me," Scott says. "It's about you and your family. Together, we're turning Florida around."
It doesn't matter that Scott was the one who first drew blood, advertised negatively and made the campaign not about "you and your family." Scott is now trying to define the race, not just his opponent. And when he is defining his opponent now, he's starting to do it in an effective way by using humor, as seen in the "Flippin Amazing" ad.
Crist has, in some respects, played into Scott's hands. Democrats are starting to saturate the airwaves with negative spots unleavened with what used to be a Crist hallmark: Optimism. Governor Sunshine is losing his shine. In conversations with regular voters, including Democrats and local non-political reporters, a number of them have the same question about Crist: What is he campaigning on?
So far, Crist hasn't effectively answered that question.
So Scott is answering it for him: Nothing.