Attention prospective candidates in Tampa Bay and beyond: Do yourself a favor and hire Preston Rudie right now.
He’s the ace comms pro behind former Congressman David Jolly and if he can get a puff piece like the one in the Times this weekend, well, it’s safe to say he can handle your PR needs.
In the story, Tampa Bay Times political editor Steve Contorno answered a question no one is asking: What will David Jolly do in 2022?
There are a number of reasons no one wondered, and I’ll get to those in a second, but first let’s talk about how much this piece shows the changing political coverage at the Times.
The newspaper went from ‘David Jolly killed a man’ (Jolly, at age 16, was the driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian and was cleared of any fault in the accident) to a soft-focus feature no one asked for.
To his credit, Contorno is an excellent writer. The piece reads well, it just ignores so much behind-the-scenes analysis, none of which points to a Jolly election in Florida.
Yes, Jolly found a national platform as a Never Trumper, former Republican turned NPA. MSNBC ate up him and all of his unfettered anti-Trump zingers.
But Jolly, and most of the national media machine, knows there’s a shelf life to the Never Trump phenomenon.
As Trump exits stage right, how much time will MSNBC want to devote to dumping on Trump? Probably not much because they, like basically all of the rest of us, just want to move on. Even if Trump lingers into the 2021 news cycle, which he may very well considering he’s already toying with another presidential bid in 2024, Trump take-downs won’t be quite as relevant with a Joe Biden White House.
And set that aside. Jolly just isn’t the kind of politician that’s going to win.
While Jolly is the son of a preacher with many conservative ideals, he’s not Trumpian enough to win a GOP primary. The new Republican Party has shown that they either prefer Trump’s brand of populist conservatism, or they think it’s simply the winning strategy. There doesn’t seem to be much room for a moderate Republican, at least not in the statewide electorate.
Jolly couldn’t beat Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District and then was a bit of a jerk on the way out the door. There’s really no where for him to run after that. He’ll be branded too conservative for Democrats and too liberal by Republicans. Sure, there are plenty of NPA voters in the state, but not enough to carry an election even if he courted all of them.
There simply is no path for an independent candidate in a statewide campaign. Crist, who again, beat Jolly, was the closest to success and even he couldn’t pull it off.
In addition, such a run would be expensive, prohibitively so for any candidate, but especially for Jolly. He abhors fundraising, stands to look like a hypocrite if he does too much of it, and he can’t afford to self-fund.
Consider Jolly’s brief tenure in CD 13. One of his prime priorities included blocking incumbents from fundraising from office. The idea, of course, went nowhere and, frankly, didn’t gain much support from either party. Incumbent U.S. Representatives, whether Democrat or Republican, must run for office every two years and they need a solid bank account to ensure their continued tenure.
Jolly would also likely be a spoiler. As an NPA, he’s more likely to syphon votes from Democrats than Republicans, so you can bet there would be a lot of closed door conversations should he seriously consider a run for U.S. Senate or Governor, bids that would almost surely hand Sen. Marco Rubio or Gov. Ron DeSantis new terms.
Finally, for what is probably a number and a variety of different reasons, there’s just a lot of animosity toward the guy. Democrats might savor the sweet, sweet flavor of a former Republican dissing his old party, but at the end of the day they’re not going to want to ruin their diet by consuming too much. And Republicans, well, they don’t take kindly to being dumped. Again, look at Crist. In the eyes of his former party he went from Republican darling to failed independent Senate candidate to opportunist Democrat over the span of just a few years.
There really isn’t much to speculate here. Even if he wants to run, Jolly can’t win as an NPA. Republicans aren’t likely to welcome him back into the GOP tent with open arms and Democrats might not want him.
I get it, of course: it must sting Jolly to see the success of someone (DeSantis) he was leading in the polls when they were both running for U.S. Senate. But so much has changed since then.
But hey, at least the Times got to publish a shot of a new, dressed down Jolly. He went from being the most coifed politician in Pinellas County — a guy I remember wearing a blazer to Friday afternoon drinks at Crabby Bills — to Aidan from Sex and the City.
The photo captures the reality that Jolly is more likely to be a stubbled home improvement novice in 2022 than he is a statewide candidate for elected office.