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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Commentary

Grant: Florida governor’s race won’t be pretty or cheap

Published:

Gov. Rick Scott has signed the state budget for the coming fiscal year, thus signaling the only legislative enactment that has to become law. In so doing, he went light in the use of his veto pen, not wanting to offend any legislators by vetoing any of their pet projects.

A stack of bills remains on his desk, but none are must pass. He will sign most, veto a few and allow some to become law without his signature.

Meanwhile, the summer and fall elections are in full swing, with the race for governor at the top of the list.

Already, unprecedented amounts of money have been spent for this time in the election cycle. The largest part of spending is in the Tampa Bay area, as the I-4 corridor vote will likely decide the outcome.

Scott has already spent nearly $10 million on TV ads, while IndependentRepublicrat Charlie Crist, with his third political affiliation in four years, is trying to convince people who he really is with new quotes opposite of where he was and what he said when running with a different affiliation. He also has to get through a Democratic primary running against a real Democrat. Although he seems to be giving it scant attention, it will be interesting to see who Democrats identify as the real Democratic candidate.

Scott and Crist are on a collision course in what is shaping up as the most expensive and, unfortunately, the nastiest statewide race anywhere.

Each has high name recognition, and each has served as governor. Both are all over the state taking credit for whatever good may have happened and blaming the other for anything bad. I even heard someone blame Scott for global warming.

Each is trying to be all things to all people. It has been aptly said that “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other — Oscar Ameringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.”

The implications of the outcome in the governor’s race are huge, extending far beyond Florida.

Whoever occupies the Florida Governor’s Mansion will control the nation’s largest swing state heading into the 2016 elections. Whoever wins the White House must win Florida, and the party of the sitting governor will have a lot to do with that.

The stakes are high. This race is not just about running for governor, but about electing a future president.

Rumors and projections are that well over $100 million will be spent in the governor’s race. Scott’s contributions are coming from varied industries and special interests.

Crist has raised less than Scott, but nearly half of his money has come from the legal community.

Scott not only has the fundraising edge but has a better-organized campaign being run by some of the best of the best. Still, Scott holds only a slight lead over Crist, and in the next few months the race could turn in any direction. All polls are within the margin of error.

Crist’s campaign is stocked with President Obama campaign hands and supporters, just as Scott’s is filled with Mitt Romney alums. In Florida in 2012, Obama beat Romney by less than a percentage point.

Scott enjoys the benefits of incumbency, usually an advantage for any candidate, which allows him to dominate the earned media news cycle most of the time.

Scott needs to keep reminding Republican voters that the Charlie Crist they voted for eight years ago is not the same Crist he proclaims to be today.

Crist is solidly on board with Obama and with Obamacare, neither of which sell well in Florida.

Scott has to win back the GOP rank and file and quiet the concerns of the Republican elite. Meanwhile, Crist has to convince all those Democrats who worked so hard against him that he is now really one of them. He has a lot of explaining to do.

There have been a lot of misrepresentations flying and more to come. I like a comment made by Adlai Stevenson: “I offered my opponents a deal: If they stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about them.”

Any way you look at it, the governor’s race isn’t going to be pretty or cheap. It promises to be a high-stakes, knock-down, drag-out campaign where winning will rank higher than truth.

That’s my opinion, and I am sticking to it.

John Grant is a political columnist who served 21 years in the Florida Legislature. He can be reached at MyOpinion@john grant.net.

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