The nation’s political junkies are focused mainly on U.S. Senate races, where Republicans stand a fair chance of re-taking a majority there. Predicting if Harry Reid will lose his job as Senate boss is a favorite indoor sport just now, made difficult by all the really close races.
But none of these Senate races is any tighter than the Florida governor’s race, which has been within the margin of error in almost all polls since late July. It’s the closest Florida governor’s race in a generation. The Real Clear Politics Average of Polls through October 31 shows rookie Democrat Charlie Crist at 43 percent and Republican incumbent Rick Scott at 41.8 percent. Close is nothing new for Florida. Most remember the 2000 presidential race, which threatened to be permanent, so narrow were the totals. In 2012, Barack Obama won Florida by 0.9 percent. Scott himself won the governorship in 2010 by 1.2 percent.
The candidates are making their final rounds through the state, trailing surrogates like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio on one side, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton on the other. These final forays are probably not aimed at changing voters’ minds. Those not disgusted by both candidates in this exceptionally nasty race know who they prefer, or who they are repelled by least. No, the final laps are for the candidates to ask their supporters to vote if they haven’t already, and ask them to badger their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and relations to vote too. The turn-out-the-vote machines for both parties are grinding behind the scenes, as a race this tight is likely to be determined by which party gets out the highest percentage of its voters.
My political crystal ball calls this one “trends tied,” so you’ll have to look elsewhere for a prediction. Most Floridians just hope that Florida’s 67 counties will be able to accurately count votes Tuesday, so that the incessant and really nasty ads will not be supplanted by endless re-counts and news stories of lawsuits filed by both campaigns. Both candidates have a reinforced platoon of lawyers on speed dial for this eventuality.
With a large Republican majority in both houses of the Florida Legislature for his entire term, Scott has presided over four years of basically center-right government. The state’s budget has grown during his term, but not as much as it would have under a Democrat. The state’s workforce is actually slightly smaller than when Scott was elected in 2010.
Scott is hardly a movement conservative, and has scrolled somewhat to the left since his 2010 campaign as a Tea Party reformer. He’s far more inclined these days to give the Education Industry whatever it wants in the way of state tax money, and to give voters with Spanish last names whatever Republican political consultants tell him voters with Spanish last names want (which often is not what voters with Spanish last names actually want). But he has resisted the global warmists, without actually countering their weak arguments. And he has resisted increasing state taxes and the state’s minimum wage. He understands how wealth and jobs are created and is sympathetic to creating both.
Crist has outlined a left-left agenda, focused on rewarding all the left constituencies with more state money and promises to modify the social rules of engagement to satisfy their agendas. Unions, government schoolteachers, homosexuals, geek-branch feminists, enviros, and anti-gun folks will all find something to love in Crist’s political piñata. But it’s questionable how much of this leftist wish list Crist could deliver with a heavily Republican state legislature. Mostly on the campaign trail Crist just hugs voters and talks in vague terms about how he LUVs Florida and will make the lives of all Floridians better. Details to follow.
Neither of these guys is very popular. Neither is considered trustworthy by a majority of Floridians. Crist, the former Republican and former independent, because he changes political positions and parties to suit the race his is in, and has a history of not working very hard in the offices he wins. Many who dislike him the most see him as all campaign and no govern. Scott is not understood well because it is literally hard to understand him. He’s inarticulate, and has a lot of trouble with his first language, which many may be surprised to learn is English. He makes his own case very poorly.
So for Tuesday, there will be partisans of both candidates who hope very much that their candidate wins. Unhappily, there will likely be a bigger cohort of voters who just hope for a clean win, by either candidate. And hope that both parties will develop a deeper bench than they have now.