GOP Groups Funded Jolly Upset in Florida

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 11:15 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Republican David Jolly's surprise victory in Florida's special election on Tuesday was a lesson in how influential outside political groups can save the day for an otherwise faltering campaign.

GOP groups heavily subsidized Jolly's slim upset against his better funded Democratic rival, Alex Sink, donating about $5 million to his campaign, which had an unimpressive fundraising and campaign operation, The Washington Post reports.

"The Florida CD-13 special was an important test market, and there was unprecedented cooperation among outside groups," Steven Law, CEO of American Crossroads, a conservative group that spent about $500,000 on the campaign to help Jolly, told the Post.
"We intend to keep refining these lessons as we prepare for the fall elections."

The highly contested race to replace the late Bill Young has held particular importance for the parties, with the outcome considered an important barometer for how each party might be faring now and in November.

Crossroads was involved in a coordinated effort with American Action Network and YG Network, with the three groups spending a total of more than $1 million, according to the Post.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than $2 million, some of which was donated by members of Congress. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also chipped in more than $1 million. In total, GOP groups outspent Democratic groups by about $1.5 million, most of which went toward television advertising.

Even though Democratic ad spending still outpaced total GOP ad spending, in part because of Alex Sink's huge cash advantage, the Republican groups spent money carefully, hitting the airwaves with complementary messages and avoiding overlaps or doubling up, the Post reports.

The Republican organizations "actually talked to one another and spaced out their buys so there was coverage the whole campaign. Not everyone was up at the same time. It's a page from our playbook," one Democrat with knowledge about the race told the Post.

While ad spending may have been one of the biggest reasons for Jolly's narrow victory, the Post says the political mood was on his side.

"Without a political environment favoring Republicans, it's safe to say the return on investment would have been different. The unpopularity of President Obama's signature healthcare law and the Democratic brand boosted the GOP effort in Florida," the Post said.
"When voters went to the polls in the first big 2014 test, Republican groups were in the winner's circle. That's a great place to be eight months before the midterms."

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