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Joe Henderson: Rick Scott following familiar campaign formula vs. Bill Nelson

The only way to avoid Rick Scott’s ad blitz thus far in his campaign for the U.S. Senate is to unplug your TV set and, well, who wants to do that?

That would mean you missed the Royal wedding and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s ongoing run toward the Stanley Cup, so I guess being subjected to Scott’s “approved” attack on his opponent and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is a price to pay we just have to pay.

The latest ad is a real gem.

Scott, the two-term governor, has been attacking Nelson, the three-term senator, as a “career politician.” Now, he is using what looks like the cast of Everyday Folks to paint Nelson as a rubber stamp who always votes the party line for the Democratic agenda — whatever it is.

One guy in the commercial even says Nelson is too influenced by Nancy Pelosi, and while I suppose their paths have crossed I doubt the House Minority Leader has much influence over Nelson’s votes in the Senate.

Ah, but that’s how the game is played.

Republicans believe Pelosi is such a hot-button item that merely hearing her name or seeing her face will send thousands of voters stampeding to the polls to back any GOP candidate.

Scott is not above playing the guilt-by-association game, either. A big part of his strategy as an unknown outsider in 2010 was to label Republican front-runner Bill McCollum as liberal for supporting — wait for it — “pro-abortion and pro-homosexual” Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential primary.

Painting McCollum as liberal was (and is) laughable, except it worked.

Scott then put “let’s get to work” on an endless loop that we’re still repeating eight years later, and I guess he figures if a little distortion worked before, why mess with success?

Besides, Nelson is absorbing a ton of body blows from these ads while sitting on about $10.5 million in his campaign chest. It’s reasonable to ask when he will start throwing punches back before Rick Scott defines himself as an agent of change and Nelson as the face of partisan politics.

While Scott has already spent $8 million on TV ads, including Spanish-language ads, Nelson has essentially been a ghost on TV and puzzling to the Democratic base.

For instance, he voted to confirm Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, choosing not to hold the fact she oversaw “enhanced interrogation” (torture) for a time.

He tweeted his support for relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, calling it the “appropriate place.”   

That doesn’t sound like a Democratic rubber stamp to me.

As long as Nelson lets Scott keep pounding away though, it doesn’t really matter what is true and what is misleading. Yeah, I know — the lead-up to major elections is all about being misleading.

Voters can usually sort through the nonsense, and it is still about 5 ½ months until the election. Neither candidate faces a serious primary challenge.

If I were Democrats though, I’d be worried that Scott is managing to plant enough seeds with voters that it could be hard for Nelson to change minds.

If they doubt that, just ask Bill McCollum.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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