There are not enough flame emojis on my keyboard to adequately denote what follows as a pure hot take, so here goes…
If Rick Baker falls a few hundred votes short of winning Tuesday’s mayoral primary in St. Petersburg, will he have President Donald Trump to blame?
Baker needs to win fifty-percent-plus-one of the vote to avoid a November run-off election versus incumbent Rick Kriseman.
Let’s say for the purpose of this hot take that Baker finishes with 49.5 to 49.9 percent of the vote. This will mean he will have missed winning the race by about 250 votes.
For a campaign that has raised more than $1 million, it’s difficult to conceive how it could not have captured 250 more votes if it knew that was the margin of difference between winning in August or dragging out the race to November.
Baker has raised at least $1,050,273 for his campaign and his committee through August 24; Kriseman has pulled in $766,940. That’s a substantial gap, so much so that it’s remarkable Kriseman isn’t trailing Baker by double-digits.
Unfortunately for Baker, however, is the fact that he has paid for all of his television ads through his campaign and committee, whereas Kriseman has employed the Florida Democratic Party to three-pack his TV ads.
Because the Republican brand is so incredibly toxic right now with the average St. Petersburg voter — mostly because of Trump’s polarizing behavior — Baker’s committee, Seamless Florida, has avoided the usual practice of transferring its money to the state party, which would, in turn, spend the money on behalf of Baker’s campaign while utilizing the images and disclaimers of two other candidates (hence the term three-pack). Three-packing an ad technically makes it a generic, party-oriented ad rather than an expenditure on behalf of a specific candidate.
But — and this is the key party — The FCC requires broadcasters to give the lowest available rate to candidates for office, but they are allowed to charge whatever they want to committees. A committee like Seamless Florida cannot receive the candidate rate, so the price it’s paying is the same price any other company is paying. The candidate rate is typically thirty percent less than the regular rate.
Kriseman’s committee has been more than happy to ship its money to the Florida Democratic Party. Technically, there are not suppose to be any strings attached to these contributions, but everyone involved knows where the money comes from and how its suppose to be spent.
Now, it’s not like Kriseman raised all $766K for his committee only to transfer it to the FDP. Most of the money he has raised has been in hard dollars to his campaign, so what is described above is only so much of a factor.
But when you are talking about a situation where 250 votes could swing an election, the fact that Baker did not want the Donald Trump/Republican brand on his or his committee’s ads could turn out to be a pivotal decision.