POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt reports on the GOP’s frustrations with Republican David Jolly’s messy campaign operation in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, ahead of the special election next Tuesday:
“Over the past week, a half-dozen Washington Republicans have described Jolly’s campaign against Democrat Alex Sink as a Keystone Cops operation, marked by inept fundraising, top advisers stationed hundreds of miles away from the district in the state capital and the poor optics of a just-divorced, 41-year-old candidate accompanied on the campaign trail by a girlfriend 14 years his junior.
“The sources would speak only on condition of anonymity.
” … It is rare for party officials to criticize one of their own candidates, even anonymously, days before an election. One explanation may be so they can point to Jolly – as opposed to the national political mood or the ineffectiveness of attacks against Sink over her support for Obamacare – if he loses.”
So what are the national Republicans so upset about?
They’re not really upset that Jolly “disagreed with an ad the party was airing against” Sink for her use of a state state plane while she was Florida CFO. That was actually a smart move by Jolly a) the line of attack had been used in 2010 by Rick Scott and b) Jolly is indirectly susceptible to criticism of relying on taxpayer-funded flights himself. According to the Tampa Bay Times, federal records show that between 2003 and 2005, flew overseas to Italy, France, Britain Spain, Belgium, Austria and Crete at a cost to taxpayers of more than $7,100. Between 1998 and 2006 he spent more than $38,000 traveling between Washington and Florida.
They’re not really upset that Jolly’s campaign emerged “insolvent” after a contentious primary process because it’s not on Jolly that more established candidates declined to run. All Jolly has done is all he could do to wrap up the nomination as quickly as possible.
They’re really not even upset that Jolly has been a less than spectacular fundraiser. Jolly was never going to outraise Sink, who has a statewide network of donors in place from her previous campaigns. Could Jolly have raised more small-dollar donations online? Absolutely. But Jolly is not a “movement” candidate, he’s an ex-lobbyist, and so he’s not going to raise thousands of dollars from the Republicans throughout the country who donate to Ted Cruz and Allen West.
No, what the anonymous national Republicans are upset about is that Jolly has relied more on his Florida-based advisers than the National Republican Campaign Committee’s team or a roster of established D.C. consultants. Jolly’s team — Pat Bainter, Marc Reichelderfer, Sarah Bascom on comms, Adam Goodman for TV, and Nick Hansen on the ground — is as good as it gets in Florida politics, but they’re not the ‘pros from Dover’ to national Republicans. These consultants (some of whom are my personal friends) are not exactly household names in D.C. They’re recognized for their very good work in Florida, but none of them are the preferred vendors of the NRCC or the major national organizations.
Hence the anonymous criticism in the POLITICO story that Jolly’s team is “disjointed.” Hence the criticism of Bascom and Reichelderfer working out of Tallahassee rather than Pinellas County.
But, as one of the media types who receives the advisories and the press releases from the campaign, it’s not Jolly’s communications department that should shoulder the blame if he loses on Tuesday. No one disputes that Jolly’s comms outreach has been superior to Sink’s.
All of this pre-Monday morning quarterbacking is disappointing to read because this race should not even be close. In November, when Sink entered the race, she was double-digits ahead of almost every Republican considering running. In a November poll commissioned by this blog Jolly trailed Sink by fifteen points.
That Jolly and his campaign — despite being outspent and despite being on the receiving end of the most biased coverage from the Tampa Bay Times I’ve seen in my two decades as a political consultant in the region — are within spitting distance of Sink is nothing short of a political miracle.