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Low Key Announcements Abound

Are balloons, bands, bunting and other patriotic backdrops a thing of the past?

Democrat Alex Sink became the third Florida politician in just over a week to launch a statewide campaign with remarkably little fanfare.

Sink’s message – that she’s running for governor – was carried on a one-page press release sent out by Email, not unlike the routine missives the chief financial officer sends out about unclaimed property or consumer fraud. And if you weren't checking your email, you didn't find out right away – there was no definite time set for an announcement.

“It’s a far cry from the old days when you’d have a big campaign announcement,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist whose latest book, The Year of Obama, examines the 2008 presidential campaign.

“Everybody now realizes that those announcements cost money. Big money. And they don’t always hit the audience you want.

“Instead, you can post an announcement, it gets sent around the Internet. People talk about you. And then you can come back and still do the announcement tour. You wind up getting four or five media hits instead of just one day’s worth.”

Former House Speaker Marco Rubio was the first to nonchalant his way into a statewide race when he formally announced his U.S. Senate candidacy – in Spanish – on the television network, Univision. The next day, he posted his English-language announcement on the web site of his exploratory committee.

That came after a few days of sending strong hints that he was getting in – on his Facebook page.

Rubio’s rival for the Republican Senate nomination, Gov. Charlie Crist, also eschewed a big production Tuesday. Crist set off a seismic shift in Florida politics by announcing his bid to go to Washington.

But he, too, did it in a notably modest way – another press release.

Sink’s low-key announcement was e-mailed less than three hours after she ended a Cabinet meeting telling reporters she’d be saying something about her political future “very soon.”

Two other Cabinet members, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, both Republicans, are expected to announce their gubernatorial plans in coming days.

The recent announcements may be a sign of a broader reality: the definition of media, or ways to reach people, is changing. And while perhaps capitalizing on the power of the Internet and 24-hour news cycle, the recent announcements also are shaded by some traditional political qualities, Sabato said.

“In a state like Florida, you’ve got to raise so much money – probably $25,000 to $30,000 a day – for races like this. You want people to know you’re running, early, because every day you’re not a candidate out there spreading your name, it’s costing you,” Sabato said.

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