Tampa Bay Times issues its endorsements in battleground State Senate races, but do they matter?

By on July 20, 2012

The Tampa Bay Times‘ has made its endorsements, err, recommendations in the Aug. 14 primaries for the Florida Legislature.  The question is not as much who they endorsed, but whether the endorsements even matter?

For the record, the Times endorsed John Legg, Jim Frishe, Tom Lee and Jack Latvala in four GOP primaries for the Florida Senate.

While these endorsements might make the candidates feel better about themselves, it is doubtful the support of a newspaper viewed with skepticism by many, if not most, likely Republican voters will matter much, right?

First of all, put aside the endorsement of Latvala.  There are those who would joke that the Times editorial board is Latvala’s base. He could be running against Bruce Wayne and still Tim Nickens and Co. would recommend ol’ Jack.

It should also come as no surprise that the Times endorsed Legg, Frishe and Lee — all three candidates are more ideologically moderate than their primary opponents.

The Times’ support of Legg and Frishe is probably more helpful than it is of Lee. For Legg, the endorsement serves as a de facto vouching for of Legg’s decision to switch districts and run in a seat that includes voters mostly unfamiliar with Legg.

For Frishe, the endorsement is a reaffirmation of his entire candidacy — that he has the support of most of the local establishment, that he is not as far-right as “tea party favorite” (the Times loves using that term, doesn’t it) Jeff Brandes and that Frishe is a committed supporter of Latvala’s ambitions to be Senate President.

The money quote in Frishe’s endorsement is “Brandes … is backed by more conservative lawmakers seeking to block Latvala’s rise. That alone should disqualify Brandes as an option in this race.” Those two sentences, put in print, will continue to keep former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker on the sidelines, while bolstering Frishe’s claim with Tampa Bay’s old guard.

As for the Times‘ endorsement of Tom Lee, this may be a double-edged sword. It’s unlikely to bring to Lee’s banners many voters who weren’t already prepared to vote for Lee, yet it may serve as a rallying cry for Rachel Burgin to garner support among deep-red conservatives.

All in all, the Times‘ endorsements in these races are far less effective than its recommendations in races where candidates don’t have the resources to fully deliver their campaign message, such as down-ballot contests for judge.

Still, it’s always nice to be able to put on the campaign literature, “Endorsed by the Tampa Bay Times.”

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