With tens of millions, Ron DeSantis’s campaign is dominating the airwaves in race for governor

By: - September 26, 2022 10:58 am

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Aug. 30, 2022, in North Florida’s Live Oak, FL, in Suwannee County. Credit: Governor DeSantis’ Facebook.

With Hurricane Ian bearing down on Florida, political advertising may slow down in the coming days. That would put a pause on what has so far been an overwhelming advantage in TV this month for Gov. Ron DeSantis over Charlie Crist in the race for Florida governor.

Between Sept. 5-18, 2022, there were more than 13,000 broadcasts touting DeSantis’ candidacy for reelection, vs. just 881 ads with a pro-Crist message. That’s a 15-1 discrepancy, according to a blog post at the Wesleyan Media Project.

DeSantis also dominated on social media during that two-week period, spending $470,000 on Facebook and Google, while Crist spent $45,000. Crist is a former Republican governor, Attorney General and Education Commissioner before he became a Democrat and Congressman. (Crist recently resigned his U.S. House seat to campaign for governor.)

DeSantis emergence as a national figure has helped him raise an astonishing $189 million to date, according to OpenSecrets. That breaks the previous gubernatorial fundraising record held by Meg Whitman, the former eBay and Hewlett Packard CEO, who raised $178 million in her unsuccessful bid for governor of California in 2010.  The major difference between those two campaigns is that Whitman’s campaign was mostly self-financed.

Charlie Crist has raised just under $20 million, also according to OpenSecrets.

Florida’s Division of Elections show that the Friends of Ron DeSantis committee has totaled $187.1 million, which includes the most recent filing period of Sept. 10-16, 2022. Of that amount, DeSantis has spent $81.9 million.

The Florida governor has emerged as a national figure in GOP politics over the past year and is considered a top candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, particularly if former President Donald Trump does not run. Yet despite his overwhelming lead in fundraising and his subsequent dominance on the airwaves, the governor’s race remains within single digits, according to recent polls.

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released last week shows DeSantis up by seven percentage points, 48%-41%. A Susquehanna Polling and Research survey taken earlier this month had DeSantis up by four points, 47%-43%.

DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in the race for Florida governor by less than half a percentage point in the 2018 gubernatorial election, a margin so close that it triggered an automatic machine recount. Since 2018 though, Republicans have superseded Democrats in party registration in Florida for the first time ever, and that lead continues to grow.

According to data published on the state’s Division of Elections website last week, Republicans now have a near 270,000 voter advantage over Democrats. Between July 25 and August 31, Republicans had a net gain of more than 40,000 voters over Democrats.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.