Monday, June 09, 2014

Election 2014 Handicapping: Florida's Gubernatorial Race

It's really hard to call this early, but my gut feeling is that Republican governor Rick Scott is setting up pretty well for a second term. The polls are back and forth, usually showing Democratic nominee (and former Republican governor) Charlie Crist well ahead of Scott (RCP average right now is Crist +2.4), but two thoughts of my own (first and last in the list below) and three stories featured in Sayfie Review this morning (in the middle of the list below) explain why I think Scott has the initiative:

  • Nobody -- nobody -- really trusts Charlie Crist. The Democrats didn't nominate him because they like him, they nominated him because of a knee-jerk feeling that he could win. He's a Republican. No, wait, he's an independent. No, wait, he's a Democrat. He jumps parties like running deer jump fences: Whenever anything gets in the way of the one thing Charlie Crist cares about, which is Charlie Crist.  In November, it will come down to turnout. The entirety of Crist's campaign pitch boils down to 1) "I am Charlie Crist"  and 2) "I am not Rick Scott." It's going to take more than that to get asses out of chairs and down to the polling place.
  • Scott is already running an anti-Crist ad blitz. Aaron Deslatte's coverage of that blitz in the Orlando Sentinel tells the tale in eight words: "Outraised 3-to-1 thus far, Crist's campaign ..."  Who's going to give money to Charlie Crist? He has a huge fundraising list -- of people whom he sold himself to as a Republican and who correctly feel betrayed by his "sore loser" moves to independent and then Democrat. He's a tough sell to Democratic donors. Will he still be a Democrat in December, even if he wins? Who knows?
  • Scott is campaigning on a "state socialism lite" platform. That may cost him a few Republican base votes (see "Wyllie, Adrian below), but he'll probably more than make up those base votes among independents who like taxpayer-subsidized college tuition and corporate welfare for rail transit.
  • How does the third party vote split out? On the one hand, I reject the whole "spoiler" myth. Votes belong to voters, not to candidates. If someone votes for Libertarian nominee Adrian Wyllie or independent Farid Khavari, that's the voter's choice, not a vote "stolen from" one of the major party candidates. On the other hand, it's reasonable to assume that were Wyllie and Khavari not on the ballot, many (not all, but many) of their voters would instead choose one of those major party candidates. And I think those votes will, to the extent that they "come out of a major party candidate's hide," hurt Crist more than they hurt Scott if for no other reason than that Scott already has his base, while Crist is wandering in a partisan wilderness trying to find a new one.
Disclaimers/disclosures: In 2010, before I even lived in Florida, I did some freelance campaign work for Khavari. I stopped voting in 2010, but there's a slight possibility I'll vote this year for various reasons not really that related to politics. If I do, it will probably be for Wyllie.

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