Florida voters had a choice between retaining a reasonably competent but stiff and colorless Republican governor or replacing him with a slick campaigner who is a Democrat now, but only after stops as a Republican and as an independent. The voters chose center-right competence over leftist charm and smarm.
With 99+ percent of Florida precincts reporting. Scott led Crist by a little more than 80,000 votes out of five and a half million votes cast, a margin of one percent. All the groups who call such things declared Scott the winner just before 11 p.m. The race was supposed to be close and it was. Close, but an improvement for Scott over 2010 when he beat Democrat Alex Sink by 60,000 votes.
Things shook out about how folks who follow Florida politics expected. Deep blue South Florida went for Crist by lopsided totals: 59-38 in Palm Beach County, 58-40 in Miami-Dade, and 68-30 in Broward. Crist also took the urban counties of Hillsborough and Pinellas, as well as the university counties of Leon (Florida State) and Alachua (Florida). Scott essentially rolled up the rest of the state. He won by large margins in rural and suburban counties. Crist won with women, Scott with men. Crist won all age groups except 65 and over, a big part of Florida’s electorate.
Scott’s margin of victory was just outside of the one-half of one percent that would have triggered a required recount. For which blessing Floridians by the millions are thankful, as the campaign has been unusually nasty, with TV attack ads and robocalls without end. It was also very expensive with more than $110 million spent on TV ads and more than $150 million totally.
Scott will govern for the next four years with an overwhelmingly Republican Florida Legislature. The Republican Florida attorney general, Agriculture commissioner, and chief financial officer were also re-elected. The medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which Democrats had hoped would bring young voters out, was defeated.
After months of nasty ads, Scott and Crist were civil to each other in their victory and concession speeches, saying all the right things about everyone coming together for the benefit of Florida, which they both agree is the best place on earth.
Scott told his supporters that he had two pieces of good news. The first was that the campaign was over, which got a good hand. And that he wasn’t going to give a long speech, which news was also well received.