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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Economy up but Scott’s poll numbers still lag

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Published:   |   Updated: February 4, 2014 at 10:13 AM

The news has generally been good lately for Gov. Rick Scott.

More people are working, money is pouring into his campaign, and the state is actually running a budget surplus.

And even though his proposed state budget includes all sorts of election-year goodies designed to move the popularity needle, it was praised by the nonpartisan Florida Tax Watch as fiscally responsible. That’s the same group that puts out an annual list of legislative turkeys coming out of Tallahassee each year, so getting its approval can take some doing.

“By increasing efficiency in state government and offering significant tax cuts, this budget shows his commitment to Florida taxpayers,” Tax Watch CEO Dominic M. Calabro said.

Since people often vote with their pocketbooks, you would think the governor’s poll numbers would be shooting through the stratosphere right now.

You would be wrong.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week with a 2.5 percent margin for error has Scott trailing Charlie Crist by 8 percentage points. That was an eyebrow-raiser because other polls had showed a tighter race. An automated poll by Public Policy Polling, for instance, had Crist ahead by just two points.

Either way, it’s surprising an incumbent in a state where things are looking up would be trailing at all. The governor has basically done what he said he would; unemployment has dropped nearly 5 percent under Scott. He boasts of creating 462,000 private-sector jobs. Florida is now considered one of the most business-friendly states in the country.

With numbers like that, he should be measuring the governor’s mansion for new drapes.

Instead, he is trying to make up ground against a challenger with so much baggage he could get his own airport carousel. Crist hasn’t exactly come out of the box swinging, either.

Maybe he is keeping his powder dry, since he doesn’t face a significant primary challenge (sorry, Nan Rich) and needs to save as much dough as possible to fend off Scott’s $100 million campaign death star. The race probably will tighten once Scott starts emptying his campaign treasury, but these poll numbers make me wonder how much difference his money will really make.

My guess is that a lot of voters have already made up their minds, and that probably doesn’t bode well for someone eight points down – even if that someone has the resources at his disposal that the governor does.

After all, it’s not like Crist won’t also air a lot of campaign ads. After months of attacks and counter-attacks, it all tends to blend together, you know?

I think Scott could spend $1 billion in south Florida and he wouldn’t win that part of the state. He will win north Florida easily, which leaves the good ol’ I-4 corridor. The blitz is coming. Make sure your remote’s mute button is in working order.

Barring a scandal or a last-minute revelation that one of the candidates is actually a space alien from the planet Zortron, I wouldn’t be surprised if voters just tune out all the noise in the last month or six weeks of the campaign and go with their instinct.

Right now, that instinct seems to be a problem for the governor.

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