March 30, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Florida Candidates Aim to Stand Out in Ad Crush

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.

Were going to have 100 percent saturation by the time Election Day rolls around, said one plugged-in GOP strategist in Florida. If youre a Congressional candidate, you can do a cookie-cutter attack or contrast ad, but ... you have something in there that is quirky, lighthearted, impactful and different in some way.

You dont want to be Fred Davis Im not a witch different but different, the strategist added, referring to the GOP admakers now-infamous ad for failed Delaware Senate candidate Christine ODonnell.

Operatives also noted that swing voters mailboxes would likely be overflowing with direct-mail pieces from candidates and third-party groups during the next few months. To hold a voters eye for even an extra second calls for particularly creative pieces, they said. But making sure not to go over the line and turn voters off is a careful art.

With the top-of-the-ticket races and the huge GOP convention being held in Tampa next month, theres also a limited amount of journalistic coverage that Members and Congressional challengers are fighting for.

Congressional campaigns have to take advantage of every earned media opportunity they get or are able to create, said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party. You have to be more aggressive in getting your message out there.

Part of the compressed cycle is a result of Floridas absentee ballot and early voting program, which many Floridians take advantage of. Indeed, some races may have half the ballots cast before Nov. 6.

Theres not Election Day in Florida, theres election month said Eric Johnson, a consultant for Murphy.

Absentee voting has probably become the biggest misnomer in the process, Florida GOP strategist Brian Hughes said. Its really become vote-by-mail.

Voters can send in absentee ballots as soon as Oct. 3, 35 days before Election Day. Early voting where voters can go to a physical location to vote begins on Oct. 27, 10 days before the elections.

All that calls for thoughtful planning of how and when to target swing voters so that theyll pay attention to a downballot race.

But even with lots of planning, figuring out how to break through wont be easy.

Hey, its uncharted territory, said the influential Republican consultant in the state. Weve never seen this much independent money come in. Its brand new for everybody. Were all going to be feeling our way through, sort of in the dark, looking for the light switch.

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