Not only are David Jolly and Alex Sink miles apart ideologically in their contest to succeed the late Bill Young in Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District next month, they also apparently have different ways of wanting to engage the electorate.
As originally reported by Politico on Friday afternoon, Team Sink has rejected a proposal submitted by NBC News to regionally broadcast the February 25th campaign forum between the candidates scheduled to take place at the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce.
At the same time that was being reported, David Jolly was attempting to speak directly to that retired Largo couple featured in a new ad slamming his take on Social Security that was produced by a major Democratic super-PAC.
"I am sure that every professional consultant would have advised me against calling people who appear in my opponent's commercials, but I looked up their phone number on the Internet without telling anybody and I called them," Jolly told CL on Saturday morning outside his campaign offices in Clearwater.
Jolly says he recognized the name of the couple, Elizabeth and Rod Snedeker, because they would occasionally contact former Congressman Young over the years when he worked in his district office.
However, he says he was unsuccessful in his attempt to speak to them on Friday, saying the phone rang about 20 times and wouldn't allow him to leave a message.
In the ad, produced by the House Majority PAC, the couple say Jolly lobbied for Free Enterprise Nation and hint that he tried to get private investment accounts for Social Security.
"I just wanted to reach out to them," Jolly said about the Snedekers, adding that he wasn't under any illusions that he'd be able to change their minds on the issue.
Speaking a few minutes earlier to an enthusiastic group of Florida Young Republicans and Florida College Republicans who arrived from as far north as Tallahassee and as far south as Palm Beach County on Friday night to phone bank and knock on doors for Jolly on Saturday, the GOP candidate said he wanted to talk to the couple because although he suspects they may be so-called Democratic Party "Super Voters," it's important to deal with people of all political persuasions.
"I understand we might have a different view of this, but I at least wanted to reach out and have a conversation ... when I talk about being a Bill Young Republican, that’s exactly something that Bill Young would have done. We have a responsibility. I registered as a Republican when I was old enough to vote but I’ve never subscribed to the notion that Democrats are always wrong, nor independents."
Jolly then went through his beliefs about long-term changes to Social Security and said private accounts could be one option, though he emphasized that he disagrees with his party when it comes to the Paul Ryan budget. In the Ryan plan, he would allow people under 55 to divert roughly half of their payroll taxes away from the traditional program and into a private account "owned" by the individual but managed by Social Security, and invested in stocks and bonds.
Meanwhile back to that Clearwater Chamber debate that now won't be televised and moderated by Chuck Todd. Sink spokesman Max Steele tells Curtis Krueger in the Tampa Bay Times that "This week, our campaign was informed that the Clearwater Chamber was planning to significantly change the event from the original format that was agreed upon, excluding a candidate and limiting grassroots participation. We've come to a mutually agreed upon format and we look forward to participating."
Jolly says it's the voters who are losing out by Sink's refusal to engage in more than two televised debates and three events overall during this truncated campaign season.
"I wish Alex would engage with us every day. It doesn’t have to be a debate, they can set the rules," he says. "I said to somebody the other day, 'Bring Rachel Maddow down and put it on MSNBC every day.' That’s fine. I’m comfortable with that. Because not everybody is going to agree on where I stand, but I think the voters deserve to know where we stand. At the end the voters deserve to hear directly from Alex in a true forum, not in a scripted environment."