Here's where sh*t stands – the 'Brandes vs. Frishe' edition

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This is not the usual ‘here’s where sh*t stands’ blog post.  In the race between Jeff Brandes vs. Jim Frishe, I am too close to both camps to really explain where sh*t stands.  I’d have to write a six hundred word disclosure before I could genuinely write where I think sh*t stands in that race. And then folks would still accuse me of being biased.

But I can’t not write about Brandes vs. Frishe, right? By all accounts, it is one of the four or five most interesting state legislative races this cycle.

To briefly reset the race, I’ll just lift Steve Schale’s perfectly constructed three-sentence summary: Jim Frishe is a longtime Pinellas pol, currently in his second tour of duty in the Florida House of Representatives. Jeff Brandes is the newcomer, elected in 2010 to the Florida House, bringing ambition and personal wealth to the race.  This is (a) race that could have Senate Presidency ramifications and is definitely one to watch.

Here’s where sh*t stands in State Senate District 22…

Frishe has been campaigning for over a year, whereas Brandes got into the race very late. If this were a heavyweight boxing match, the pre-fight analysis would hold that Brandes needed to come into the ring and knock-out Frishe in the first couple of rounds.

The expectation was that Brandes, once in the race, would overwhelm Frishe with a barrage of television ads and a flurry of endorsements. This, in fact, did happen.

But, perhaps surprisingly to observers both local and in Tallahassee, Frishe took these punches and countered.

Brandes announced the support of rock star Rep. Dana Young, as well as Sandy Murman, in Hillsborough.

Frishe countered with announcements touting the backing of Hillsborough’s Mark Share, Sheriff David Gee, former Rep. Faye Culp and Rep. Shawn Harrison.

Brandes punches with an announcement about earning the support of future Speakers Rep. Richard Corcoran and Chris Dorworth.

Frishe counters with endorsements future Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Brandes, who is essentially trying to make the argue that there is little institutional support in Tallahassee for Jim Frishe, schedules a fundraiser with a dozen freshman State Representatives on the host committee.

Frishe counters with the endorsements of Sens. Charlie Dean, Mike Fasano and Dennis Jones. Frishe even lands a nasty punch by making the argument that no incoming State Senator has yet to endorse Brandes.

As for Brandes’ barrage of television commercials, they are that. A barrage. A barrage of well-produced (a tip of the hat to Adam Goodman and his colleagues at the Victory Group) non-too-specific television commercials.

No one expected less from Brandes.  In fact, if one had to sum up this race in terms of media, it could be described as Adam Goodman’s TV vs. Jack Latvala’s direct mail.

What was not expected was for Jim Frishe to be up on television so soon.  What was really not expected was for an independent group (The Committee to Protect Florida) to be airing attack ads vs. Brandes so soon.

What was not expected was for this fight to be in the middle rounds and these two brawlers going toe-to-toe. How exciting!

And now, the third-parties are getting involved.  The above-mentioned Committee to Protect Florida has gotten into the ring.  The Floridians for Liberty — a committee associated with Jeff Brandes — just shifted $30,000 to Accountability in Government, Inc. Frishe’s ally, Jack Latvala, just raised $60,650 IN ONE WEEK FOR JUST ONE OF HIS LEADERSHIP COMMITTEES. Where do you think that money is going?

Suddenly, a prize fight is a wrestling match.

The big question in this wrestling match is how much of his own resources Brandes is prepared to spend.  $500,000? A million? Two million? I genuinely don’t know the answer to that, but I do have a question. Can he even spend that much money?

As difficult as it is to fathom, a campaign can only spend so much money in a given period. That given period — the time between now and an election — is about seven weeks.  It’s only three weeks to vote-by-mail ballots are distributed.

A campaign can only send so many mailpieces.  A campaign can only air so many television commercials.  There are only so many billboards that can be rented. Heck, even SaintPetersBlog.com can accept a limited number of ads (don’t worry, we haven’t reached that point yet.)

A campaign can only send a mailpiece a day, right?  At $10,000 a mailpiece x 42 days of delivery, that’s only $420,000.  And it would be completely ridiculous if a campaign sent 42 mailers.

$25,000 dollars a week on Bright House Networks would see the candidate’s face on TV almost every time you flip from TBS to TNT.  Even if you spent $50,000 a week (!) for the next seven weeks, that’s only $350,000 in spending.

An unprecedented level of cable television and direct mail, a level that involved a mailer every day and thousands of points of television, ONLY costs $750,000.  So how do you get $1.5 million into the system?

Sure, a campaign can buy broadcast television and air commercials aimed for a few dozen neighborhoods to the entire Tampa Bay market.  A campaign can pay for a lot of live telephone calls to voters, but I question the effectiveness of that tactic.  Paid walkers.  Web ads. Fine, pay for them.  You’re still not at a million-five.

Banners off of the back of airplanes. Digital billboards. Taxi-cabs with the candidate’s face emblazoned on them. Go ahead, write the check.

But I still think Montgomery Brewster would have trouble spending $2 million on a legislative campaign lasting seven weeks.

Bottom line, money isn’t going to decide this race.

No, this campaign will come down to two fighters, going toe-to-toe, punching and counter-punching.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.