Big Decision for GOP in FL-13

The special election to replace the late Florida Rep. Bill Young (R) in the 13th Congressional District is heating up, and the Republican Party chieftains must soon decide whether or not to match their opponents’ multi-million dollar campaign expenditure budget. Combined, the Democratic national party apparatus and their outside organization allies are making winning this open Tampa Bay congressional special election the highest of priorities.

The National Republican Congressional Committee did just purchase $230,000 in television air time in order to run a negative ad campaign against Democratic nominee Alex Sink. This, in addition to their previous $495,000 outlay, brings their total expenditure for the March 11 special election already to $725,000. This is a major sum for one House seat, but the Democrats are doing far more.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already spent or allocated $820,000 for the 13th District special election, in addition to the House Majority PAC organization dropping $650,000. Sink, for her own campaign, had raised more than $1.1 million just through the Christmas Day pre-primary financial disclosure deadline. Totaling the three entities’ spending already exceeds $2.57 million to support Sink’s efforts, and more than six weeks still remains until Election Day.

As we have covered in the past few days, two post-Jan. 14 primary polls have actually given Republican nominee David Jolly a slight lead over the former Florida chief financial officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee. But, as we have also analyzed, the methodology used in sample selection process skews Republican, thus the particular survey results are more favorable for Jolly than is actually the case.

The spending pattern so far tells us that the Democrats and their allies will spend whatever it takes to win this campaign. From their perspective, and remembering that they need 17 seats to wrest the House majority away from the Republicans, the motive to spend is understandable because the regular cycle Democratic national conversion opportunities appear few and far between.

In the FL-13 campaign, the Democrats have the better candidate, at least on paper, and the district has begun trending their way (President Obama carried this seat by 1.5 points in 2012, making it one of only 16 districts nationally that voted for him while simultaneously electing a Republican congressman). Additionally, their new attack ads are targeting Jolly’s unpopular lobbying clients and are planning to soon bring forth a series of hits against him for representing an organization (The Free Enterprise Nation) whose chairman speaks favorably about privatizing Social Security.

Though David Jolly is arguably in better position right now than originally projected, and with the national political winds seemingly shifting their way, the GOP leadership must now decide whether they will match or exceed the huge Democratic spending figures for this one congressional district.

Is it in the party’s best interest to spend heavily in a race where their candidate, despite recent favorable breaks, continues to be rated an underdog? Or, is it better from a big picture perspective, to save a sizable amount of money that could be spent for other candidates, including major challengers, in the regular election cycle? Naturally, the Republicans hope to do both, but the ultimate strategic decisions for this Florida special election are upon them right now.

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