Gubernatorial candidates not waiting for fall to go negative

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Since neither Gov. Rick Scott nor Democratic candidate Charlie Crist expects much of a primary challenge next Tuesday the two are focused on each other. And if their first round of ads is any indicator, charges and counter charges are going to be flying from now until November.

A Scott ad paid for by the Republican Party fired first with a commercial featuring a convicted felon who has said he was able to purchase judgeships when Crist was governor. A narrator reads, “Convicted swindler Scott Rothstein bought expensive things with stolen money. He even bought a governor.”

Crist fired back with an ad charging Scott has teamed up with a felon to smear Crist.  Both claims are dubious.  However, as Crist acknowledges, it’s how politics is played.

“They try to muddy things and that is what politics is,” Charlie Crist responded in Tampa last week when asked about a negative ad targeting him.

Then again, politics as a battle of perceptions and negative campaigns have been a part of the process since Thomas Jefferson hired James Callendar to help define his political opponents.

And some argue that negative ads actually serve voters’ interests. John Geer found in In Defense of Negativity how negative advertising actually presents more factual information to voters than positive ones. It seems that positive ads lack relevant information.

Scott seeks to define Crist as lacking a moral compass given his split with the Republican Party and then subsequent races where he ran without a party affiliation and now as a Democrat.

“I think the only party left for him is Whig,” quipped Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, chair of the Scott Campaign.

Florida is a swing state and a valuable prize in presidential elections. Expect both parties to funnel money into the state to fuel an explosion of ads defining their opponent in a negative light. Observers have expected it and the candidates try to immunize supporters by alerting them to the tactics when talking to voters.

At Al Lopez Park in Tampa last week Crist observed that the Scott campaign has run about $30 million of ads attacking him while he has responded with a million dollar ad campaign and the race appears to be a dead heat.

“What that tells me about my fellow Floridians is . . . they see through this kind of trash talk,” said Crist. “They know both of us.”

And then Crist quickly turns and defends the attack ads his campaign has run.

“The kind of ads we’re going to run tell the truth about Rick Scot,” Crist said. “And when we tell the truth about Rick Scott they think it’s hell but we’re just telling the truth.”

We’ll provide a link to Scott’s latest ad once it becomes available.