- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2014

The head of the Florida GOP says he is confident that Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, will win re-election this fall in part because of the moves they have made to strengthen their ground game.

In a newsmaker interview last week with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, state Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said his team is investing boatloads of time and money into digital operations, hiring staff and dissecting electorate data to target voters who can help propel Mr. Scott to a second term in office.

“I think we probably have one of the best teams in the country and I think you guys are going to see that in the 2014 gubernatorial election and other statewide elections,” Mr. Curry said. “It will be like nothing you have ever seen in a governor’s race.”

Mr. Scott is likely to square off against former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a onetime Republican who became an independent in 2010 and then became a Democrat after helping President Obama win re-election in 2012.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday found that Mr. Crist is leading Mr. Scott in a hypothetical matchup by 46 percent to 38 percent.

“The best number in this poll for Crist — and the biggest problem for Scott — is that a majority of Florida voters say the current governor does not deserve a second term in Tallahassee,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Voters also give Crist a higher job approval for when he ran the state than any approval rating Scott has received in his three years on the job.”

The Florida GOP is hoping to rebound from the 2012 presidential election, where Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, won re-election and Mr. Obama won the state’s 29 electoral votes, riding his campaign’s massive data and digital operation to victory over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Looking to create its own version of Team Obama’s technologically advanced approach to campaigning, Mr. Curry said, the party has hired, among others, a new deputy executive director for political strategy and new director of digital strategy as part of an effort to strengthen its get-out-the-vote operation.

“It is not just about targeting a specific group,” he said of the effort. “It is about what kind of car do you drive. What kind of house do you live in. What kind of magazines do you read.”

As part of that effort, the Florida GOP launched a “Ran Away” Web ad Friday highlighting Mr. Crist’s “many economic failures,” and announced it was sinking more than $100,000 into a digital ad campaign targeting swing voters on Hulu, YouTube and sports websites, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Mr. Curry said the gubernatorial race also will give Mr. Scott a chance to reintroduce himself to voters and remind them of how he has delivered on the promises of fiscal responsibility, education and jobs that he made four year ago.

He also said Mr. Scott will benefit from the growing backfire against Obamacare — upwards of 300,000 people have lost their insurance — and the dysfunctional nature of Florida Democrats.

“They have little to no infrastructure and are completely disorganized,” Mr. Curry said. “Florida Democratic Party is often at war internally and they have a very weak bench.”

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