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Florida Candidates Aim to Stand Out in Ad Crush

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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.

“We’re going to have 100 percent saturation by the time Election Day rolls around,” said one plugged-in GOP strategist in Florida. “If you’re 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 don’t want to be Fred Davis ‘I’m not a witch’ different — but different,” the strategist added, referring to the GOP admaker’s now-infamous ad for failed Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.

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 voter’s 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, there’s 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 Florida’s absentee ballot and early voting program, which many Floridians take advantage of. Indeed, some races may have half the ballots cast before Nov. 6.

“There’s not Election Day in Florida, there’s 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. “It’s 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 they’ll pay attention to a downballot race.

But even with lots of planning, figuring out how to break through won’t be easy.

“Hey, it’s uncharted territory,” said the influential Republican consultant in the state. “We’ve never seen this much independent money come in. It’s brand new for everybody. We’re all going to be feeling our way through, sort of in the dark, looking for the light switch.”

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