Blaise Ingoglia, Republican Party of Florida chair -- successful against all odds -- will be a tough act to follow. But somebody's got to do it. The Spring Hill representative is a firm believer in term limits for party chairs, and when the party meets this weekend in Orlando to elect a chairman, he won't be running for a third two-year term.
"Many people dream of going out on top, and with the unprecedented and undeniable success the Republican Party of Florida has had over the past four years, this is my opportunity," Ingoglia said in a statement released last month. "We won back-to-back Super Bowls when the 'chattering class and pundits' were picking us last in our division."
What will make him tough to do without is, he plain gets results. Ingoglia is a go-big-or-go-home guy, and he figures out a way to win.
Look at the midterm results. Once again, for the second big election, data show that the strategy deployed, along with the reforms instituted at RPOF, made a substantial impact on the 2018 general election.
Before Ingoglia’s administration, during a time when pundits labeled the RPOF treasury "Florida's mini Fort Knox," the 2014 midterm elections yielded a statewide absentee ballot return rate for Republicans of 75.4 percent. Four years later, when Gov. Rick Scott and a slew of legislators with fat political committees were holding onto their money, playing small-ball with RPOF, you would have thought the state party apparatus would have foundered.
Ingoglia somehow turned small into big. This 2018 midterm election generated an all-time high Republican statewide absentee ballot return rate of 79.1 percent. That resulted in approximately 50,943 additional ballots cast for Republican candidates.
Think for a moment what 50,943 GOP votes meant in the Rick Scott-Bill Nelson senatorial race. Scott's official final margin of victory was 10,033 votes.
In order to achieve these gains, the Republican Party of Florida "deployed innovative strategies, including, but not limited to, hypersensitive social media micro-targeting and 'outside of the box' techniques seldom used, if ever, on campaigns -- to increase the rate of return and realize these results." Ingoglia said. Those are a lot of words without divulging his exact trade secret.
"If you print that, the Florida Democratic Party will have it, too," he said.
The point is, while the campaigns, candidates and committees were spending millions, if not tens of millions, on absentee ballot-chase programs, the Republican Party of Florida efficiently spent hundreds of thousands to deliver superior results we can all see now are quantifiable and undeniable.
This is the second straight election cycle, under Chairman Ingoglia, where statewide Republican absentee ballot-return rates have achieved an all-time high and a marked, substantial improvement over prior election years.
It didn't happen by accident. Since winning the RPOF chairman's race in 2015, Ingoglia focused on increasing the return rate of absentee ballots. He said it was the one indisputable thing the party could do to make a difference in both local and statewide elections.
For four years, he has highlighted this opportunity while spearheading intensive training sessions.
Comparing the 2012 presidential election to the 2016 presidential election: The 2012 election yielded a statewide absentee ballot for Republicans of 80.1 percent. In 2016, using similar techniques, that return rate rose to an unprecedented 84.5 percent, resulting in an approximate 58,000 additional ballots being cast for Republican candidates.
“While I fully recognize that President Trump, the RNC, our great candidates and legislative leadership helped generate high Republican turnout in these past two elections," said Ingoglia, "one cannot argue that the Republican Party of Florida didn’t have a dramatic impact on these elections, when considering the constants of prior elections. Our statewide strategy made a huge difference.”
I asked Ingoglia what he's most proud of during his two terms as chairman. "I'm proudest of winning," he said. "Winning when everyone thought we were going to lose. I think I'm proudest of bringing the first-ever Florida gubernatorial debate to national television." And his legacy accomplishment? "Oh, that would be the Sunshine Summit, without a doubt."
The chairman's advice to his successor? "Think outside the box," he replied. "Don't be afraid to think big, and never, ever forget the grassroots."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith