“I think the campaigns have to change because there are hundreds of thousands of Floridians who need help,” former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said when asked about the campaign. Bush led Florida through a two-year period that saw eight hurricanes hit, including four before the 2004 presidential election.
Steve Vancore, a pollster and longtime campaign consultant who has worked for both Democratic and nonpartisan candidates, said the continued airing of ads during a major natural disaster speaks to the evolving nature of politics.
“Once upon a time when there was a natural disaster, everyone would drop everything, at least for a few minutes,” he said. “Those terms are out the window.”
In addition to television ads, some campaigns send emails and text messages to voters asking for money. And campaign workers are posting regularly on social media.
The hurricane’s arrival comes at a crucial time in the election cycle, with the 2022 midterms less than six weeks away. Most election officials in Florida will begin mailing out mail-in ballots next week. Still, the campaign’s suspension of ads underscores the heated political climate and what’s at stake in November’s elections, including races for the governor’s mansion and control of Congress.
There was a time when voters and campaigns considered running ads, especially negative ones, undesirable when Florida residents faced a natural disaster.
But That barrier has largely dissolved During the bitter — and close — races for governor and U.S. Senate in 2018. Even as Hurricane Michael hit the state, Florida’s Republican Party ran ads trashing Democratic candidate Andrew Gillam. Rick Scott, the challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The Republican Party eventually suspended advertising in areas directly affected by the storm.
An analysis by AdImpact, an ad campaign monitoring group, shows that so far, only Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Democratic Party’s campaign have cut ad spending this week.
Democratic-sponsored ads promote Charlie Crist as challenger to DeSantis. The Christine campaign announced on Monday that it plans to stop advertising in media markets most vulnerable to the storm, including Tampa and Fort Myers, but will continue to run ads in the Democratic-heavy area of South Florida. Struck by a typhoon.
Some consultants were skeptical about the reason for cutting back on ads, saying campaigns are being run differently now. Many voters may not even watch traditional broadcast or cable ads, relying instead on streaming services.
“This is not the time to go off the air,” said a Florida Democratic consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely. “Somebody needs to tell Charlie Crist it’s not 1992. It’s 2022 and the rules of the game have changed.”
“Millions of Floridians are holding on for dear life. These political hacks will end immediately,” said Brendan Gilfillan, Christine’s senior adviser.
“We are hitting the pause button in select markets due to Hurricane Ian,” Moody’s spokeswoman Christina Johnson said. Moody, in particular, was born and raised near Tampa.
And the cyclone has disrupted other political activities. The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 riot canceled a scheduled Wednesday hearing because of the storm. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a member of the select committee, represents a district that includes Orlando.
President Joe Biden also postponed Tuesday’s trip to Florida, where he was scheduled to campaign with Crist. Demings and other Democrats canceled an event planned for Monday evening in Fort Lauderdale.
Crist, who earlier this week blamed DeSantis for the state’s broken insurance market, declined to criticize his GOP opponent’s storm surge.
“I don’t want to be quarterbacking on a Monday morning that isn’t Monday,” said Crist, who served as the state’s governor from 2007 to 2011.
But there are no signs so far that other major campaigns have made any changes to their advertising strategies. The DeSantis campaign did not respond to questions, while a spokeswoman for Rubio’s campaign said earlier in the week that they had no plans to change their campaign strategy.
However, both DeSantis and Rubio have spent the past few days on television frequently discussing the impact of Hurricane Ian, not politics. DeSantis has held several press conferences from the state emergency operations center and other locations around the state. Biden praised the administration For help in return. Scott, who heads the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, has been discussing the storm on cable television. Crist also appeared on television Wednesday.
While Demings’ campaign has pulled ads in areas along the planned route of the Senate storm, it has been aggressive in other parts of the state, including launching a new Spanish-language ad in the Miami market and criticizing Rubio’s attendance record in Congress. His campaign also started radio ads in Orlando, which is expected to be hit by the storm the next day.
Members of both parties are routinely accused of exploiting natural and man-made disasters for political gain, such as in advertisements released after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Some of the families of the 9/11 victims were then President George W. Bush was again criticized for airing campaign ads that showed the Twin Towers collapsing and an American flag flying over the ruins.
In 2020 Iowa Republicans rejected then-Rep. Days after Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) filmed a campaign ad at a storm recovery event, a wind storm knocked out power and damaged homes and farms.
Vancore said he was “a little old school” and recommended being “sensitive” during natural disasters.
“You don’t advertise or campaign when people are struggling,” he said.