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News Story
Updated: 06/15/2013 08:00:38AM

Going negative: Good for politics, but for business?

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Gov. Rick Scott isn’t what you’d call a subtle salesman.

Suppose he were a Ford dealer. His ad campaign would feature a list of any flaws he could dig up on GM, Toyota and Chrysler.

Camry brakes? Bad.

Chevy transmissions? Trouble.

Jeep cup holders? Spillage.

Ford? Smile! Hard sell. In politics, it’s called “going negative.” Aggressive stuff, but does it work? We don’t know if Scott’s latest economic development gambit will bear fruit, but one thing is certain: It’s getting attention. Which is, after all, is one of the primary objectives of advertising.

The governor’s “One-Way Ticket to Florida” letter-writing campaign is aimed at persuading corporate executives elsewhere that their state’s taxing policies are bad for business. He is cherry-picking specific statistics and policies — pro-us and con-them — but that’s nothing new.

(Nor is this approach: Texas Gov. Rick Perry has used it before.) No big surprise that the targeted states are all blue and all led by Democratic governors: Connecticut, California, Illinois, Minnesota and Maryland. Scott, eying re-election next year, has steered clear of his fellow Republicans. So it doesn’t hurt politically.

And the stick-poking is prompting reactions up north. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Connecticut’s top development official objected to her state being characterized as “among the worst tax climates for business in the country.” She was “shocked,” and “offended” by the in-your-face letters.

Duly noted.

An Illinois official complained about “poaching.” She told the Times, “These publicity stunts don’t work.”

We’ll see. It may be that Scott’s political career benefits the most; voters admire a fighter.

But the stunt did get publicity. As we know from political campaigns, negative advertising often works. The initial reaction may be negative, but the underlying message seeps in. And maybe all publicity really is good publicity: Just spell it F-L-O-R-I-D-A.

Still, different circumstances call for different sales approaches. We just hope Scott changed his tactics when he led a trade delegation to Paris last week for an international air show. Hard sell? Faux pas, that. Going negative: Good for politics, but for business?


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