Adrian Wyllie a Factor in Florida Governor's Race, But Can He Be a Contender?
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Wyllie does well in the poll, taking 9 percent. While far behind Crist, who leads with 39 percent, and Scott at 37 percent, Wyllie looks poised to do better than Libertarians ever have before in Florida.
But polls, especially this early, can be fool’s gold for third-party candidates. Polls showed Crist going toe to toe with Marco Rubio back in 2010 when he ran for the Senate with no party affiliation. Some of them taken in the summer of 2010 showed Crist in the lead with around, and in some cases taking more than, 40 percent in a three-candidate race. When the smoke cleared, Rubio beat Crist by 19 percent.
Libertarians know firsthand how one of their candidates can fail to live up to the polls. Lucas Overby broke double digits against David Jolly and Alex Sink in a special congressional election earlier this year. Overby took 5 percent when the final votes were counted.
Ray Netherwood also didn’t quite do as well as some polls showed. In another special congressional election this year, Netherwood was running neck and neck with Democrat April Freeman for second place, far behind Republican Curt Clawson. Despite polls showing him with 13 percent, Netherwood finished with less than 4 percent.
Third-party candidates collapsing in the polls isn’t a new phenomenon -- look at Ross Perot and John Anderson. But the arrow is up for Libertarians in Florida and, if he isn’t a contender to beat Scott or Crist, Wyllie is showing he can be a factor come November. Wyllie is helped by having some other solid candidates on the ballot with him. Overby is back, this time as Jolly’s only rival. So is Netherwood. Libertarians missed out by not running challengers against Jeff Atwater or Adam Putnam who face very weak Democrats in November, but Bill Wohlsifer is running a scrappy campaign for attorney general. The Libertarians are certainly set to build on Gary Johnson’s and Alex Snitker’s efforts in Florida.
Wyllie is helped since both Scott and Crist do poorly in the new poll. By mixing fiscal conservatism by calling for less taxes and small government and social liberalism on marijuana legalization and gay marriage, Wyllie can take votes away from both Scott and Crist.
The big question now for Wyllie is how does he go from being a factor to being a contender. It’s tough to envision Wyllie having the needed cash to run statewide commercials. Wyllie has been trying to get into the fall debates and he has to prove he’s a viable candidate. Wednesday’s poll was a nice step in that direction.
The task for Wyllie is clear, though he has to hope his numbers don’t collapse before the debates. While Scott and Crist pound away at each other, Wyllie has to reach out to voters turned off by all the mudslinging. Another good poll or two and Wyllie’s case to be included in the debates will only be strengthened. Even if he’s not in the debates, Wyllie can still have a banner year for Florida Libertarians and give them a good road map for the future.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.