Senate Republicans credit aggressive tactics, data-driven decisions for victories

Real Elephant Republican Symbol
Winning sleeper races, exploiting Dems' PPP mistake, all led to mass success.

Senate Republicans received a celebratory message as an expanded GOP caucus took the reins in the upper chamber.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee released a victory lap message late Monday evening. The biggest takeaway was simple: Staying on offense, whether attacking Democrats on their own turf or exploiting mistakes by party leadership, means more Republicans swear in today than sat down two years ago, and that no GOP incumbents lost reelection bids.

The memo credited a disciplined campaign strategy for a strong 2020 cycle, and even putting one primary challenge down.

The memo was first reported by POLITICO Florida’s Arek Sarkissian.

“This cycle brought some of the most competitive and costly races we have seen in recent years,” reads the memo from Data Targeting CEO Pat Bainter and FRSCC Executive Director Joel Springer. “Our candidates and their teams ran dominant campaigns at every level and delivered victories as a result.”

Success this cycle ultimately means Senate President Wilton Simpson takes over in the Senate as seven new Republican Senators take office.

The first victory touted? An intraparty squabble between Lee County Republicans Ray Rodrigues and Heather Fitzenhagen. Both served together in the Florida House, but the FRSCC backed Rodrigues early on. When Fitzenhagen ignored that and challenged Rodrigues in a primary, the campaign arm for leadership slammed her on the airwaves. Ultimately, Rodrigues won the contest handily, before an easy and less eventful win over Democrat Rachel Brown in the General Election.

“Senator Ray Rodrigues had the only competitive primary of the cycle,” the FRSCC memo reads. “Ray outworked his opponent and ultimately won over the vast majority of Southwest Florida Republican voters with a 75% to 25% win. Tim Baker and Terry Miller executed a campaign built on a superior paid-media strategy highlighting Ray’s conservative credentials and proven experience.”

The message also celebrated wins in Florida’s premier races for open seats in Senate Districts 9 and 39, as well as the defeat of a Democratic incumbent that helped the GOP not only defend but expand its majority.

“Senate District 37 was ignored by the media, dismissed by the Democrat machinery and considered a strategic head-fake by Democrat leaders,” the memo reads. “Senator Ileana Garcia proved them all wrong and joins us this week as the 24th member of the GOP Majority.”

The caucus credits Ana Carbonell for leading staff support on a recount fight in SD 37, one where Garcia ultimately came out 34 votes ahead of incumbent José Javier Rodríguez. Garcia had been a late entry into the race as Republicans touted the contest as one of the most competitive of the cycle.

In the more closely watched contests, Republican Jason Brodeur defeated Democrat Patricia Sigman in SD 9 despite facing “a hostile local press corps” and Ana Maria Rodriguez beat Democrat Javier Fernandez in SD 39 the “old fashioned way,” one door at a time. FRSCC leaders specifically lauded campaign pros Jim Rimes, Alex Miranda and Albert Lorenzo in those wins.

Overall, the FRSCC noted solid, data-driven campaigning as a key to victory.

“President Simpson invested significantly very early on in actionable, intelligent data, and in people that know how to properly interpret them,” the memo reads. “Daily briefs were conducted, and decisions executed on messaging, communications delivery and ground operations ensuring the campaigns were completely in sync with the electorate.”

On-point messaging from Media Advisor Ryan Houck, Communications Advisor Erin Isaac and Political Director McNally Merlini also ensured wins. In particular, the memo notes the Republican operatives exploited the questionable decision — “shameful corruption” — by the Florida Democratic Party to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. That led to attacks on Democratic candidates relying on FDP for support around the state having to answer for the party’s misdeed.

“The looting of a program intended to help struggling workers during the pandemic may haunt Florida Democrats well into 2022 and 2024,” the memo predicts.

Republicans enjoy this moment and head into the next cycle, when redistricting means every Senate seat will be back on the ballot, with optimism.

“Not only did President Simpson make sure our candidates had the support needed for victory in 2020, his fiscal oversight and relentless fundraising launches the 2022 cycle with a multi-million dollar advantage over the launch of the 2020 cycle,” the memo closes.

“This jump start — combined with your commitment to improving the lives of each and every Floridian by strengthening our economy, ensuring opportunities for all students, and providing desperately needed lifelines to the most vulnerable among us — are the foundation we need to continue the successes of 2020 into 2022 and beyond.”


Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    November 19, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Lol. Kept you busy ! That was part of the strategy for Florida! Bloomberg put the bucks in to keep you right here n Florida! How many counties went blue? Mmm.

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