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Pros and cons of running a presidential campaign in Tallahassee

Governor DeSantis' announcement puts city in national spotlight
Posted at 6:17 PM, May 24, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Running a presidential campaign from Tallahassee has its pros and cons. Governor Ron DeSantis presidential campaign announcement has the power to put Tallahassee in the national spotlight.

Sally Bradshaw is no stranger to the inner workings of presidential campaigns. Bradshaw told ABC 27, “I was fortunate to work in three different presidential campaigns.” Bradshaw said she worked for campaigns including that of President George H.W. Bush and Governor Mitt Romney. Most recently, she said she served as senior advisor on the Jeb Bush 2016 campaign for president. She’s out of politics now, but Bradshaw gave us an idea of how important city selection is for a candidate.

“In 2016, Jeb Bush’s campaign was headquartered in Miami,” Bradshaw said. With that knowledge and based on her experience, Bradshaw said she expects between 80 and 100 campaign staffers to be set up in Tallahassee for the early stages of the campaign.“You can assume the first team members to move here will be the fundraisers. They raise money all over the country,” Bradshaw added.

When asked about the importance of transportation infrastructure to a campaign, Bradshaw added, “it’s very helpful. Certainly, being in Miami, we had access to an airport that was easily accessible to major markets around the country.”

Tallahassee International has far fewer options when it comes to direct travel. For example, the lowest average cost to fly from Tallahassee to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in January of 2024 around the time of caucuses is around $300 one way.

That trip takes an average of just under 8 hours from TLH. The same trip from Tampa is an average of around $250 and takes an average of 5 and a half hours. That’s a big difference when it comes to getting staff to and from crucial primary locations.

Bradshaw said technology may help bridge that gap.

“Since 2016, so much has changed in terms of people being able to access content and access each other whether its through Zoom or other forms of technology,” Bradshaw said. “You can pretty much be anywhere and be engaged and involved at a senior level.”

What about when it comes to governors who run for president while they’re still in office? We took our questions to Florida State University Professor of Political Science, Hans Hassell.

Hassel said the strategy is, “incredibly common. George W. Bush in the 2000s. You had a number of governors in the last election cycle.”

Rutgers University research showed that in addition to Bush, Bill Clinton ran while he was governor of Arkansas in 1992, Franklin Roosevelt for New York back in 1932 and Woodrow Wilson while leading New Jersey in 1912.

“For Governor DeSantis,” Hassel added, “it’s important that he has people he trusts are going to act according to the way he would want them to do so.”

The governor will likely be delegating many duties to his staff while running. Hassel said he also expects tensions to rise in early 2024. “The crunch will come if he is successful right around the time of the Iowa Caucuses. When the legislature comes back into session here in Florida, and you’ve got elections ongoing there. That’s where we’ll see the tension of “the governor is in Iowa, but we need him here.”

All of this means Florida and Tallahassee will be in the national spotlight. Bradshaw said she expects the national media to cover the governor both on the campaign trail and the capital city. She said she saw it happen here during the 2000 election. “The number of national celebrities and media personalities that descended on Tallahassee was pretty remarkable. It was not unusual to be in the grocery store or to be in line in a restaurant and run into someone of significance on the national level.”