With all the fanfare and Clinton selfies and fortune cookies, this weekend’s Leadership Blue’s biggest achievement was clearly the big fund-raising numbers. The announcement that $1.1 million dollars was raised in one day energized the room and everybody in the festivities was very excited. While the FDP has not released the exact number for their multiple fronts, it will be curious to see what individual efforts paid off and if these can be replicated and maintained until November. But as always, money is a good thing.
The party should be very cautious however and spend the money wisely. In all reality, this election is already a wash simply because the Democrats failed so miserably at candidate recruitment. As Karik laid out the other day here, there are simply limited ways for the party to turn fall into a success. While the FDP seems to have put all its eggs in the Charlie Crist basket, it cannot forget about the rest of the pieces on the board. While it is inevitable at this point that Crist is the nominee, the party should caution spending its scant resources on his campaign, especially when John Morgan seems more than willing to pick up the tab. Instead of simply propping up Crist, there are much greater needs for the party to concentrate on.
Five uses for the money that the party should seriously consider:
1. Field Offices: The long term problem for the FDP is the insistence to concentrate power and decision making in Tallahassee. As many of you have probably realized, Tallahassee is out of the way for almost all the rest of the state. As a result of this geographic placement, many decisions are based on figures and numbers instead of first-hand knowledge and actual field reports. The Republican Party of Florida has dozens of field offices all over the state and this is one of the ways it uses to concentrate power and organizes the field work. A lack of field presence has been a huge criticism of the party for years and may be one of the reasons for the dismal midterm election performance. While it is late in the game to get these launched now, a few around the state could help increase performance in key overlapping districts and could help Crist and boost other house races at the same time. While it would be an investment to make them permanent, the party should consider it a necessity in the near future if the party is going to build itself into real opposition for the GOP.
2. The Attorney General’s race: whoever goes against Bondi, be it George Sheldon or Rep. Perry Thurston, is going to need all the money anybody can throw at them. Lack of constitutional officers and candidates is what has led to this pickle we are in with Charlie Crist. There simply was no one with state-wide experience (besides Alex Sink) for the Dems to run and without winning one of the seats, Florida Democrats will be in the same position in 2018 unless the FDP can show the ability to win a state-wide election. With the lackluster candidates for CFO and Agricultural Commissioner, this is the only real shot at knocking one of Scott’s cabinet off. The party has to start making gains in constitutional offices and since this is the only one that they managed to draft a viable candidate for, the money should go here as a top priority.
3. State Senate: As we laid out a couple of weeks ago, the battle for the Senate is going to be even more epic than last time. Sachs is going to need well over this entire amount to defend herself, so at least a good chunk of this money should be earmarked for her. With McLauchlan looking more of a longshot as the Dems struggle to keep the Republicans from a veto-proof majority, money has to be spent on the Senate. Not matter who retains the Governor’s mansion, that much power in the Senate is dangerous and while the Senate has indeed shown to be the rational body in Tallahassee the last couple of years, that could change with added power. Prison privatization, pension reforms, and a slew of other bad ideas may have smooth sailing, especially if Scott is re-elected. The Senate must hold.
4. The Defense of Zimmerman and Clelland: While this may in the end be money wasted in a fruitless effort, the FDP has to show their own that they will protect them and fight for them. Loyalty is repaid with loyalty and these districts lean Republican and both candidates face formidable opponents so a bitter fight is imminent. While it is going to be close and the money could probably be used for better results elsewhere, if candidate recruitment is every going to get better the party has to show it is willing to support candidates who are willing to run in pink districts and will defend them if they win. Republicans do not abandon incumbents and nor should Democrats.
5. Start candidate recruitment for 2016 early: Hire a set of consultants, just two or three, to begin now and not wait until the new year. With the expected Hillary Clinton run, Democrats could be poised to make critical gains and Democratic performance is always better in a Presidential year with higher voter turnouts, so planning should start ASAP. The Republicans already have candidates filing – and many more are already raising money. We know who faces term limits, we know 2012 numbers, so there is no reason that the party cannot start looking for candidates to run. If candidates can get on the ground and have 18 full months to work in the field and fund-raise early, the whole political game in Florida could change. Long term planning begins now and the short-sightedness continues to plague the FDP. Start now – get a team on the ground to start training candidates on campaign work and get a team of campaign managers ready who can work the field.