Annette Taddeo campaign manager’s pitch: Wait until voters get to know her

Taddeo (1)
'Ask Governor Adam Putnam about polling this far out.'

Well behind other Democratic gubernatorial candidates in polling, fundraising and name recognition, Sen. Annette Taddeo’s campaign is pressing potential supporters to help carry her until voters can get to know her.

In a memo to donors and organizations late last week, Taddeo Campaign Manager Nick Merlino attempted to lay out a case that Taddeo can win if she’s just given a chance.

In the April 21 memo obtained Thursday by Florida Politics, Merlino contends that no Democrat gubernatorial candidate has established “presumptive nominee” status. He asserts that the Democratic Primary Election is as unsettled as ever, and that Taddeo’s campaign research shows she can surge with exposure.

For nearly a year now, the Miami Senator has say in a distant third place in Democratic gubernatorial polls. Many of those polls also show that majorities of Democrats respond to pollsters about her with, “Sen. who?”

Taddeo’s campaign has barely raised enough money to run a tough state Senate campaign, much less a Governor’s race against a well-funded incumbent. Her fundraising has progressed at a fraction of the pace seen by Democratic Primary opponents U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Meanwhile, their fundraising has been a fraction of what Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has managed, making long-term prospects even more foreboding, and leading Merlino to suggest Democrats have to consider something different.

“It’s urgent. It’s an urgent time,” Merlino told Florida Politics, in offering context for the memo.

A key message in the memo is that Florida has seen many statewide candidates skyrocket or crash late in campaigns, and that Taddeo’s voter appeal potential may be much better than either Crist’s or Fried’s.

“If these polls mattered Crist would be in the U.S. Senate, Gwen Graham would be Governor, and we never would have heard of Lawton Chiles or Rick Scott,” Merlino argues in the memo. “You should probably ask Governor Adam Putnam about polling this far out.”

Much of the memo reads like an appeal of generic hope and optimism, with lines similar to what any trailing candidate’s campaign might espouse.

The memo contends that the Democratic Primary Election is still unsettled; that claims of any particular campaigns surging or tanking are “unfounded”; that it’s time for Democrats to try something different; that Taddeo’s campaign “feels great” about early fundraising and support; and that Taddeo’s campaign has not yet begun to spend money to introduce her to voters.

The memo also goes through many of Taddeo’s early talking points: that as a small business owner and working parent she has voter appeals that Crist and Fried do not, and that as a Latina she’s in much better position to rebuild the Democrats’ critical, yet crumbling, Hispanic voter base.

“Whenever she does have the opportunities to speak to people, the response is overwhelming,” Merlino said to Florida Politics. “We know that based on every event we’ve been to with the three candidates. People flock toward Annette.”

In particular, the memo calls for potential supporters to consider Taddeo’s efforts to aggressively counter Republicans’ false, yet successful, claims that Democrats are socialists or want to defund the police, slurs which the memo contends cost Democrats the past few elections.

Merlino’s memo also turns to data.

That includes year-old polling done for Taddeo’s campaign by SEA Polling And Strategic Design. That data indicated her support among Democrats soars past Fried’s and Crist’s “when voters hear about the three candidates.” The polling found the most significant improvement in Taddeo’s numbers among women voters and Hispanic voters.

For Democrats to win the General Election, they need to perform well in Miami-Dade County, her home, the memo suggests.

“Biden had the worst collapse in voter share in Miami-Dade in history (Hillary did 23 points better; Gillum did 15 points better). We lost because Democrats didn’t bash down GOP lies about socialism and defunding the police,” Merlino writes.

“Only one candidate can do this: Annette Taddeo,” the memo suggests.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


  • Claude Kirk the younger

    May 1, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Her campaign manager has a valid point in what was said. In addition I see Crist and Fried as bringing way too much negative baggage to the fight all of which is already known to the voting public. To Florida voters outside Taddeo’s district she is virtually an unknown dark horse. Yeah Taddeo’s shot at a win should not be dismissed. At this stage of the game her 2 strong points:
    1. Not Crist
    2. Not Fried
    This has the potential to get interesting.

    • Antonio

      May 2, 2022 at 11:02 am

      She is by far the best candidate the Democrats have. She makes the most sense. Which is why the party will not back her. Merlino is attempting to pull out of that by now playing the game and focusing on “GOP lies”. This is so tiring. There are Democrats that are socialists (The DSA is a real thing), and many of them jumped on the Defund the Police bandwagon. We heard them say these things, and the Dem political leadership didn’t shun away from such statements, so trying to pivot onto typical political warfare by claiming they lied is dumb. Don’t believe your lying eyes and ears is the dumbest and most dishonest political stance anyone can take, and it will surely prove to be her complete downfall.

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