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Backroom Briefing: Dress for Electoral Success?

October 1, 2014 - 6:00pm

Of the many things that could be compared to candidates for governor, a wedding dress has to rank pretty low on the list.

But the College Republican National Committee did just that with its series of "Say Yes to the Candidate" ads, spoofs on the "Say Yes to the Dress" reality show that airs on TLC. First up was an ad comparing the "Rick Scott," a modern dress favored by the bride, to the "Charlie Crist," an "outdated" model favored by the bride's mother.

Gov. Rick Scott, of course, is the Republican incumbent trying to fend off a challenge from former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat.

"And don't forget, the Charlie Crist comes with additional costs," says a stylist helping the bride try out the dresses. "There's over $2 billion in taxes, $3.6 billion in debt and 15 percent tuition increases."

About the same time, the mother happily convulses in her chair, muttering something and clapping.

"But I'll be paying this off for the rest of my life," the panicked bride says in a voiceover.

The ad quickly went viral, though perhaps not in the manner that the College Republican National Committee had hoped. Many of the first-blush responses panned the concept -- though some of the reviewers might not have been aware that it was a parody of a television reality show. And Democrats jumped at the chance to once again paint the GOP as out of touch with women.

"As a female who does not equate voting with choosing a wedding dress, I am offended by the Republicans' reliance on sexism to communicate with voters," said former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, who like Crist is a Republican-turned-Democrat. "It's not surprising that a candidate who doesn't trust women to make decisions about their bodies and refuses to fight for equal pay would think this is a good way to reach Florida's women. Is this really how Rick Scott thinks women should decide who to vote for?"

For its part, the College Republican National Committee doesn't appear to be backing down from any of the half-dozen ads, all of which follow the same template while swapping out names and local issues for the additional costs brought on by the Democratic dress.

"And just so we're clear, these are the strong, talented women who wrote the @CRNC's 'Say Yes' ads!" wrote Alex Smith, a woman who chairs the group, in a Twitter post around lunchtime Wednesday. The post was accompanied by a picture of five women. Smith has continued to retweet supportive messages about the ad.


It's been 20 years since Tallahassee lobbyist Frank Mirabella's daughter Kate died, and the hurt still lingers. But Mirabella's using his sorrow -- now coupled with anger -- to urge Floridians to support Amendment 2, the proposal going before voters in November that would legalize medical marijuana for patients like Kate, who died at age 14 after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Mirabella posted a heartfelt plea on Facebook this week, recalling how doctors could do little to alleviate Kate's pain as she neared the end of her life.

"I share this with you now because I know that there are hundreds of children with cancer who we can help. Many of these kids are facing the same fate that Kate did. They will quit eating and wither away, in excruciating pain, during their final moments of life. We cannot change their fate, but we can finally do something to help their last days on earth be more comfortable. Please show up to vote for Amendment 2 on November 4th," Mirabella wrote.

The veteran lobbyist said he was moved to pen the piece after viewing television ads slamming the proposed constitutional amendment.

"You've just got to say something sometimes," Mirabella said.

Mirabella's no stranger to the politics of constitutional proposals. He was instrumental in getting Floridians to pass a ballot initiative creating the Florida Lottery nearly three decades ago.

Floridians are blasabout the lottery now, but back then, Mirabella was up against a boatload of high-profile opposition, much as the proponents of Amendment 2 now face. Those arguing against the 1986 proposal included then-Gov. Bob Graham, his successor Bob Martinez (who was on the ballot as the GOP gubernatorial candidate that year), the state's pari-mutuel operators and Publix supermarkets.

Recent polls have shown support slipping for Amendment 2 despite earlier surveys that showed up to 88 percent approval. Like all constitutional changes, the proposal requires approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.

Based on his experience with the lottery, Mirabella said he still believes voters will give medical marijuana a thumbs-up.

Two years before the 1986 November election, support for the lottery plan polled around 64 percent, Mirabella said. As the election neared, favorable backing dropped to around 53 percent. The amendment passed by a 64-36 percent margin in spite of the high-profile opposition.

"The majority of people had made up their minds before it was on the ballot," Mirabella said. "I think the same thing is going to happen here."

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Why is it that the U.S. is the only place that offers any real hope for Ebola patients? Capitalism." -- Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City. (@NeilCombee)

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