Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sick of political ads? $40 million worth are coming in Patrick Murphy-Marco Rubio race

TALLAHASSEE — At least a dozen super PACs and independent political groups have pledged at least $40 million so far in reserved TV time in Florida's U.S. Senate race — hoping to use a barrage of commercials before Election Day to steer voters to Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio or Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

The money is almost split evenly between Republican and Democratic backers, with about $20 million on each side, the Times/Herald found.

And that doesn't even count the millions the candidates' own campaigns might pour into TV advertising. Both launched their first ads of the general election this month, but neither campaign would discuss with the Times/Herald how much they planned to spend through November.

Meanwhile, at least $12 million has already been spent by roughly two dozen groups to buoy Murphy's and Rubio's campaigns with outside support, including TV ads, Federal Election Commission records compiled by ProPublica show.

The tens of millions of dollars these political influencers are investing — from the conservative Koch brothers to liberal labor unions — is another mark of how important Florida's U.S. Senate race is on the national stage.

Although the state isn't necessarily as vital to Democrats' hopes as it previously was, a win in Florida could still help the party take back control of the Senate next year.

Those stakes are why Republican groups came out hard and fast this month against Murphy.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released three ads, including one in Spanish, across 10 days this month — spending at least $2 million so far out of $4.8 million it has committed through Oct. 2.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will begin spending an estimated $10.8 million in TV ads starting Tuesday, on top of $5 million the group has budgeted for direct mail and digital ads.

Brothers Charles and David Koch, through their network of political organizations, plan to spend an unknown sum in support of Rubio. Americans for Prosperity spent $1.1 million on a TV ad this past week, and the Libre Initiative paid about $600,000 for an ad released the week before.

A Koch brothers spokesman didn't return an email seeking comment on how much the billionaires will shell out on Rubio's behalf this fall, but Andres Malave, spokesman for AFP in Florida, said the state group will be mostly focused on its ground game, rather than TV time.

Most of the Republicans' ads so far — from both the Senate Republicans' campaign committee and Rubio himself — have relentlessly attacked Murphy for embellishing his academic and professional credentials.

Some of those attacks have exaggerated facts. For instance, PolitiFact found it's too extreme for ads to make blanket statements that Murphy "never" worked as a Certified Public Accountant or as a small business owner.

He did, but there are nuances to those experiences that don't make Murphy's résumé as black and white as either Republicans or Murphy's campaign are trying to portray it.

Meanwhile, liberal groups are trying to pick apart Rubio's record one issue at a time.

In the past two weeks, NARAL Pro-Choice America went after Rubio's stance on abortion as it relates to the Zika virus, the American Federation of Teachers funded an ad criticizing Rubio over aid to Puerto Rico and Murphy's campaign playfully attacked the senator for his weak attendance record.

Coupled with the presidential race, Florida voters may grow weary of the seemingly endless political ads consuming their TV time this fall, but for statewide candidates it's the single most impactful way to get the attention of the more than 12 million registered voters across Florida.

And for Murphy, it's an especially vital tool — because polls continue to show a large percentage of voters still don't know who he is or have an opinion on him.

"TV advertising will take care of that," said Miami Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert, who isn't working with Murphy's campaign. "With statewide races in the past, whether (Republican Gov.) Rick Scott or (former Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Alex Sink, you see where TV advertising moves numbers very quickly."

But as Rubio and Murphy are neck-and-neck in recent polls, there are signs national Democrats are withdrawing resources from Florida in favor of more winnable races elsewhere — which could hurt Murphy.

Instead, on Friday afternoon, Politico reported the DSCC was cutting its Florida investment down to $6 million, including cutting its ad buys into early October.

When asked for comment, DSCC spokeswoman Sadie Weiner referred the Times/Herald to the Politico story.

Amid the cuts, the DSCC has said that a $10.5 million ad buy that began this past week by the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC affiliated with outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, will be sufficient to fight on Murphy's behalf.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at Follow @ByKristenMClark.

Big spenders

These are some of the outside political groups that have pledged the most money so far in reserving TV ad time for Florida's U.S. Senate race. While the Democrats' support is largely confined to a few groups, Republicans have several organizations planning TV ads.


Senate Majority PAC: $10.5 million

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: $6 million

AFSCME People: $1.8 million


Senate Leadership Fund: $10.8 million

National Republican Senatorial Committee: $4.8 million (through Oct. 2 only)

American Future Fund: $2 million

Compiled by the Times/Herald

Sick of political ads? $40 million worth are coming in Patrick Murphy-Marco Rubio race 09/16/16 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2016 9:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Former Florida prison guards in KKK convicted of plotting to kill a black inmate


    Two former prison guards in Florida who were members of the Ku Klux Klan have been convicted of plotting to kill a black inmate in retaliation for a scuffle with another guard who also belonged to the hate group.

    A jury in Columbia County found David Elliot Moran, left, and Charles Thomas Newcomb guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder after they were caught discussing their plans to kill a black inmate in retaliation for a scuffle with another guard who, like them, belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. [Alachua County Jail via AP (2015)]
  2. Jameis Winston's subtle but strong moment of leadership displayed on 'Hard Knocks'


    Quarterback Jameis Winston went to each teammate in the locker room prior to the Bucs' preseason opener Friday at Cincinnati with one message: 'I got your back.'

    Then he proved it.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston throws during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Friday in Cincinnati. [AP photo]
  3. Daniel Ruth: Duck & Cover? Fix a drink, instead, if a nuclear bomb ever threatens


    I am a child of the "Duck & Cover" generation.

    Threats of thermonuclear attack bring to mind the safety advice that school children received during the Cold War, driven in part by an arms race that included the first test of a hydrogen bomb. "Ivy Mike," pictured here, was  set off in 1952 on the Enewetak atoll in the Pacific Ocean. [Los Alamos National Laboratory via The New York Times]
  4. Who's No. 2: Florida State Seminoles or Ohio State Buckeyes?


    The toughest decision in my first stint as a voter for the AP Top 25 came at the top.

  5. USAA expansion at Crosstown Center may bring Tampa 1,000 more jobs


    BRANDON — USAA will bring as many as 1,000 more jobs to Hillsborough County in early 2019 with the expansion of its existing operations in Brandon.

    Stuart Parker, president and chief executive officer of USAA, speaks at the company's new Crosstown Center location in Brandon during a visit following its 2015 opening. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times, 2016]