Carlos Beruff’s first TV spot of his Senate campaign falls somewhat short of the mark, at least according to the political pros who make up FloridaPolitics.com’s Political Ad Watch club.
In the 30-second “Forget Them,” that began airing statewide earlier this month, the Manatee County developer embraces his outsider position, an issue that has become the cornerstone of Beruff’s campaign.
Dressed casually in a button-down shirt and jeans, Beruff is shown stepping out from a dimly lit background as he blasts Washington politics.
“You know, I’ve had it. Politicians in Washington are useless,” he says straight to the camera. “They waste our money, they make America weaker, and they refuse to secure our border.”
“They’re screwing up this country,” he continues. “I’m no politician. I’m a business guy running for the Senate.”
With Beruff’s voiceover, the words “Washington is a disaster” and “Too many politicians” flash on the screen. Video clips throughout include shots of the candidate, who serves as president of Medallion Homes, at a construction site.
“Forget them,” the video concludes. “It’s time to put America first. That’s why I’m running for the Senate.”
A few Club members, such as Democratic consultant Steve Schale, were less than impressed by Beruff’s latest effort.
“It’s like Donald Trump married a Dodge Ram truck ad,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a great introduction, but then again, I didn’t think almost 50 percent of Florida Republicans would support Trump.”
Tre’ Evers of Consensus Communications notes that in comparison, videos from then-candidate Rick Scott were better at introducing an unknown.
“Always thought [Scott’s] first few ads made him seem affable, intelligent and self-deprecating,” Evers notes. “This does none of that.”
Democratic consultant Gregory Wilson sees it as just another Republican partisan strategy, which will quickly wear thin with voters.
“Oh boy, another angry Republican candidate taking cues from the ‘Angry Republican Businessman Playbook,’ complete with all the tried and true ‘red meat lines’ designed to keep us disturbed, depressed and deplete of hope, he says. “Well, it is a primary, after all! waste our money, they make America weaker, and they refuse to secure our border. They’re screwing up this country.”
Beruff blasts politicians for wasting our money, making America weaker, and refusing to secure our border, Wilson says, but he is careful not to blame fellow Republicans by name who dominate Congress.
“Beruff is understandably choosing to run against ‘useless politicians in Washington,'” he adds, “certainly in vogue these days, but does little to distinguish his candidacy. Neither will denying to be a politician by claiming to be ‘a business guy’ running for the Senate.”
Wilson does heap some (decidedly tongue-in-cheek) praise.
“I love the black shirt and denim look backed by doom and gloom music,” he says. “Throw in a helmet and some heavy breathing and you’ve got Darth Vader promising to put America first.
“Given their choice of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, many Republicans are depressed enough about this year’s elections. Repeating the daily mantra of ‘Anyone but Hillary’ can’t really brighten their day, and neither does this commercial.”
Wilson concludes by name-checking other Republicans in the race: “Luke, your father may be a badass, but I know a few of the other Dark Lords. Darth [David] Jolly, Darth [Todd] Wilcox and Darth [Ron] DeSantis are all likely to hand Beruff his head in his helmet if he thinks this is a winning commercial.”
Slightly more pragmatic is veteran pollster Steve Vancore, who congratulates Beruff for a couple of the ad’s basic elements. On two key metrics, the spot is a bit more efficient, he says.
“First, the ad is on message and it positions the candidate perfectly as being the anti-politician. One doesn’t need to conduct extensive polling and focus group research to know that primary voters (Republican Party primary voters in particular) are more comfortable swimming in the anti-establishment lane right now.”
Vancore also gives Beruff’s message high marks for being “delivered clearly, concisely and redundantly.”
In the Senate race, Beruff must boost name recognition, something Vancore says his first ad does very well.
“His name — in one form or fashion — is up on the screen nearly constantly and is ever-changing to keep the eye interested (good technique) and he repeats it as well,” he says.
But that doesn’t mean the ad is perfect. Vancore points out a distinctive lack of production value, something expected from a candidate for U.S. Senate.
“More cuts, more camera angles, better lighting, original score, more and better b-roll — something (anything!) to make it appear that it wasn’t conceived and cut in an afternoon,” Vancore says. “This candidate has too much money and for his sake needs to create good-looking eye-catching ads that stand above (and not alongside) those developed by so many other campaigns.”
While it is true that six of the other major candidates – both Republican and Democrat – currently hold elective office, Beruff has also served as a Scott appointee to the State College of Florida board of trustees, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority and the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding.
And Beruff isn’t the only one in the race who can legitimately carry the mantle of “outsider.”
Republican Todd Wilcox, the other political novice in the contest, is also a multimillionaire with the ability to self-fund. That may be the overreaching strategy in 2016; when being an outsider – like Trump and Bernie Sanders – has become all the rage.
See the ad for yourself below and on YouTube: