When you read about Florida’s governor’s race, it often seems there are three candidates. There’s incumbent governor and Republican nominee Rick (Very Scary) Scott. There’s former governor and party-switcher Charlie Crist. And then there’s The Hundred Million, the amount Scott is pledging to spend to beat Crist into submission. In one sense, this third candidate has been an important ally for Crist, insofar as it has chased off major Democratic competition, as suggested in an overview of the race by the Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo and Steve Bousquet:
“I called him a long time ago and said, ‘You’re the only one who’s capable of not being defeated by $100 million,’ ” said Dan Gelber, a former Miami Beach legislator and one of Crist’s closest advisers. “He has such a strong identity with voters that he can resist a paid media campaign.”
The $100 Million has raised its ugly head more tangibly as well:
It’s not even June and Scott is already approaching $10 million in spending on TV ads aired or bought since mid-March — an unheard-of sum so early in a campaign, and even more shocking considering Scott is the incumbent. In previous campaigns, this level of spending might be dropped around Labor Day.
In 2010, California’s Meg Whitman tested the limits of paid campaign advertising, and there’s a general sentiment in the state that her massive spending reached the point of diminishing returns (some, of course, believe her beyond-saturation ads drove maddened voters in hordes into the camp of Jerry Brown). She was a challenger, of course, who had nowhere near universal name ID when she opened up her checkbook. You do have to wonder if Scott is tempting the endurance of Florida voters with a similar level of spending. The Hundred Million could yet become an independent factor in the race.