The outcome of Tuesday's Republican and Democrat primaries is a
foregone conclusion with incumbent Rick Scott and his main
Democratic challenger, former Governor Charlie Crist, forecast to
win by wide margins.
The race between Scott and Crist in November is expected to be one
of the nation's most closely watched races because it offers
Democrats a rare chance to unseat a Southern Republican governor.
The last time Democrats won the Florida governorís race was in 1994,
when Jeb Bush narrowly lost to incumbent Lawton Chiles.
Scott and Crist, who was a Republican when he served as governor
from 2007 to 2011, are in a virtual tie in polls and already engaged
in a blistering TV ad campaign bashing each otherís records on
everything from taxes to jobs, education and energy policy.
Scott faces two primary contenders who offer no threat, while Crist
has refused to debate a stronger challenge from his main rival, Nan
Rich, former minority leader in the Florida Senate.
Rich has tried to paint Crist as a Democrat-in-name-only
highlighting his record as a
Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat instead of a
dependable liberal. But one poll released by the company St Pete
Polls last week found Crist opening up a 50-point lead over Rich (69
percent to 19 percent), a wider margin than when Crist entered the
race last November.
ďThe question is how well (Crist) does in a Democratic primary,
having just become a Democrat. He spent the vast majority of his
lifetime as a Republican,Ē said Peter Brown, assistant director of
the Quinnipiac University poll.
Turnout on Tuesday could be a good indicator of how things might go
in November, said Lance deHaven-Smith, a political science professor
at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
"Even though it's not much of a contest you get a good sense of what
the core vote looks like down the road," he said. "If it's low that
would not be good for Crist," he added, noting that Democrats
usually lose in Florida when turnout is low.
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"Republican voters pay more attention and are more intense," he
Crist has a huge financial advantage over Rich. The state's last
finance report, as of Aug. 21, shows Crist reported $14.5 million,
while Rich raised $665,699.
The Rich campaign recognizes the spending gap, focusing instead on
volunteer organization to get out the vote, and Crist's past as
former longtime Republican legislator, state attorney general and
Meanwhile, the Republican effort to retain control of all statewide
elected offices is flush with cash.
Last week the Scott campaign and the pro-Scott Letís Get To Work
political committee announced combined fundraising totals of almost
$42 million since Jan. 1, 2013. The Republican Party of Florida
reported another $53 million.
(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Zachary Fagenson in
Miami and Bill Cotterell in Tallahassee; Editing by Bill Trott)
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