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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Crist’s video means governor’s race ready to start

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There may be someone stuck in the wilderness on one of the Ten Thousand Islands in the southwest part of our state who doesn’t know Charlie Crist is going to run for governor, but everyone else does.

Rick Scott certainly does.

The Republican Party of Florida does.

The Democratic Party of Florida does.

“It’s no secret he is preparing to file and run for governor,” Democratic strategist Ana Cruz said.

No, it is not. The official announcement likely is set for November 4.

But these things have to follow a certain script, so that’s why we awoke Friday to a YouTube video that was basically a 51-second campaign launch to champion Charlie.

“Only you, the people, can get Florida back to common sense,” he said on his website, where the video is posted. “Tell me how I can help.”

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I’m sure the GOP has a few suggestions for this former Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat. Most of them would be unprintable in a family newspaper.

The game plan will be simple: Frame Crist as an unprincipled chameleon, willing to say and do anything to be elected. Take this ad about the Affordable Care Act candidate Crist authorized when running for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

“The backroom deals, the secret promises, Washington liberals forcing government takeover of health care. Obama, Reid, Pelosi. It’s a three-ring circus. Who pays? All of us.”

Ouch. Now, cut to the picture of Charlie embracing President Barack Obama, the one that got him in scalding water with his former GOP pals.

Negativity cuts both ways, though. Scott has provided Camp Crist plenty of fodder for counterattacks. This is going to be perhaps the nastiest, most negative campaign this state has ever seen.

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Public Policy Polling reported earlier this month that Crist had a 50-38 lead in a theoretical race against Scott. It also put Scott’s approval rating at an abysmal 33 percent, which is about where it has hovered for much of his term.

That number will probably close when the Republicans dip into Scott’s ample cash stash to paint Crist as just short of being the illegitimate son of illegal Martian immigrants. The Democrats will buy lots of air time, too, to attack Scott on education, the environment and immigration. They’ll mention how his lieutenant governor resigned under a cloud and the fiasco with the education commissioner.

Then it will get mean.

I’m not sure how many minds will be changed, though. People have basically known for many months that the race will be a Scott-Crist matchup. My hunch is that many voters have already made up their minds.

Crist will do well in South Florida. Scott will romp through North Florida.

Not much will change that, and it leaves the election to be decided right here in the heart of the state. Get ready for it.

Today, it was a video. Tomorrow, they’re moving in.

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