Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott is one of the most embattled heading into November. His approval ratings have been horrid, he barely got into office, and he has irritated his Republican base with pushes for Medicaid expansion and his administration’s meddling in the George Zimmerman trial. Smelling blood, Florida Democrats quickly gathered together and found what they thought would be a sure thing: a (then) popular former governor, former Republican (hey, great for getting crossover votes), former Independent (hey, great for getting Independent votes), fresh convert on abortion, crime, Obamacare, and taxation.
Who is this man, who has run as a Republican, Independent, and now Democrat in less than four years? Who has, er, moderated his positions on every conceivable issue in that same timespan? Why, it’s good old Charlie Crist, once elected, twice rejected political…something, back to working the masses yet again, this time for Team Blue.
If you just look at polling over the last few weeks, you’ll notice that former governor Crist and current governor Scott have been swapping leads, mostly thanks to a plethora of SurveyUSA polls which seem to indicate that, one, WFLA-TV has way too much money and, two, the Sunshine State is as politically schizophrenic as ever. However, when you pull back, and look at the numbers from this races’ onset back in early 2013, you notice The Man With the Tan has seen his large lead crash:
If this pattern looks familiar, it’s because it is. Crist has won two statewide contests (attorney general in 2002 and governor in 2006), but that was before his political identity began to morph in the 2009-2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. As his more conservative challenger, Marco Rubio, began to point this evolution out, his performance collapsed:
Realizing he wasn’t going to win the primary, Crist did the honorable thing: he graciously lost, congratulated Rubio, and endorsed him.
Just kidding. Crist had an epiphany, decided he suddenly wasn’t a Republican anymore, and proceeded to run as an Independent, to give people even more of himself, because if residents of his state needed more of anything, it was more Crist. Unfortunately for him, Florida voters were quite content with the level of Crist they had received, and elected Rubio. Once again, in a race in which he had enjoyed an early edge, he imploded:
Digging deeper into the numbers, I went through Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling’s surveys, as they have been reviewing this race the longest. Scott’s TV spots and the long-term memories of Floridians have had an impact on Crist’s approval/favorability ratings over the last year and a half. A big one:
(Note: I rearranged two categories to reveal the rating jump/sink from chart to chart)
Scott isn’t having much luck dramatically improving his image. He is still underwater with the latest Quinnipiac release, and is even (at the low end of the 40s) in the PPP one. His chances of re-election hinge on his ability to convince the people of his state that Crist is worse, and that appears to be happening, right when he needs it. In both surveys, Crist’s disapproval/unfavorable rating is now within the margin of error of Scott’s. If history is any indicator, it may likely surpass his in the next round.
I don’t want to give the impression that Scott is on easy street: this race is Crist’s to lose. Scott has deep issues with his base, he isn’t well liked, and he was a fluke in the first place. But the Democrats in Florida couldn’t have done a better job helping him survive than by picking Good Time Charlie. In the event that the very tanned, rested, and always ready fellow loses this race, don’t feel too bad for him. When another political party comes along, he’ll find another race and jump back in.