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Florida Candidates Aim to Stand Out in Ad Crush

In Compressed Calendar, Campaigns Fighting for Attention Against Top-of-the-Ticket Races

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
In Florida, absentee voting by mail and early voting — where voters can go to a physical location to vote — could result in half the ballots in some races cast before Election Day.

If you’re running for Congress in Florida, time is short.

A late primary on Aug. 14, an onslaught of media from Senate and presidential campaigns, and absentee and early voting that could see almost half of the ballots in some races cast before Election Day leaves Congressional campaigns in Florida with a compressed calendar to get their message to voters.

Strategists of both parties said that means campaigns not only have to reserve TV time early but plot creative media plans to connect through the clutter.

“Strategically and tactically, people are thinking: Do we go up earlier?” Democratic pollster John Anzalone explained. “Web advertising, direct mail, radio — everything is being discussed in an effort to try to break through.”

Anzalone also noted that August, usually a prime month for voter communication, was made a bit more difficult this year because of the Olympics, which made many ad slots prohibitively expensive, and the GOP convention in Tampa, which isn’t necessarily the best time to advertise.

“You have to start looking at how you communicate in other venues: online and social media and phone and other contact methodologies. But TV is still the 10,000-pound giant,” Florida GOP consultant Rick Wilson said. “There is still no substitute for a thousand points of TV.”

And while candidates will get the best rates for TV ads, it doesn’t mean they’ll get the best placement.

“Being on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ or being on the 11:30 [p.m.] Letterman,” said one influential Republican consultant in the state, “there’s a big difference in certain neighborhoods, whether anybody is watching.”

In some Florida media markets, such as West Palm Beach, the clutter in the weeks leading up to Nov. 6 could be immense. Operatives expect heavy ad rotations from not only President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but also Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and his presumptive opponent, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R); Rep. Allen West (R) and his presumptive opponent, Patrick Murphy (D); Republican Adam Hasner and his presumptive opponent, Lois Frankel (D); and all manner of heavy-hitting third-party groups.

Consultants also expect the Orlando media market to be swamped with ads from Senate and presidential races, as well as Congressional spots from former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) and his GOP opponent, along with Rep. Daniel Webster (R) and his presumptive challenger, Val Demings (D).

Crowded airwaves are a swing-state affliction in this competitive presidential year, but Florida’s compressed schedule and must-win electoral position for Romney makes it a particularly potent issue for Sunshine State candidates.  

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