Alex Sink decided to forgo a second gubernatorial run on Friday, clearing the deck for Charlie Crist to win the Democratic nomination and challenge Rick Scott in 2014.
On paper, Sink should have been entitled to some consideration for a rematch against Scott. When she beat Tom Lee to become state CFO in 2006, she became the only Democrat besides Bill Nelson to win a statewide election in recent years. True, Sink lost to Scott, but it was a Republican year across the nation. Unlike the rest of the Democratic ticket in 2010, Sink at least kept it close.
But Democrats showed little interest in a second Sink bid. The blue party often mocks Scott for not connecting with voters, but Sink didnt do any better. Her style often proved as wooden and awkward as the Republican who bested her. Democrats never quite forgave her for not beating Scott and each gaffe she made in 2010, like checking a smart phone in the middle of a debate and then whining that she didnt break the rules, only damaged her standing even more.
Despite being married to the late Bill McBride, the Democrat who ran against Jeb Bush in 2002, Sink never quite found her niche in the party. In 2010, she seemed torn as she kept trying to appeal to both moderates and independents in North Florida and liberals in the southern part of the state. Nor did her stances help her much. In the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, Sink ran hard to the left on the environment while trying to reassure the business community that she was good on fiscal issues, including always mentioning she sat on the board of Florida TaxWatch. The problem was, Sink never built up enough of a record for voters to figure out who she was.
After decades of campaigning as a conservative Republican, Crist offered Sink plenty of room to his left to run in 2014. But she never seemed comfortable there and Democrats are so desperate to win their first gubernatorial election in 20 years that they are ready to ignore Crists past record. Its one of the reasons why Nan Rich has gone nowhere in the election.
Democrats on high didnt particularly want a second Sink campaign. After she lost in 2010, she pouted that she lost in large part thanks to Barack Obamas record. Crist, on the other hand, is on good terms with the White House, and Democrats across the nation are all in for him to beat Scott next year. Sink was clearly seen as yesterdays news, while Democrats rallied for Crist, who was active in helping Obama in 2012.
Even though she won a statewide contest in 2006 and kept in close against Scott, few Democrats were chomping at the bit for a second Sink campaign. She and McBride had many of the same problems. They rose up the Democratic ladder without building records in office. McBride came out of nowhere to beat Janet Reno in 2002 to take on Bush, while Sink won her first office when she bested Lee in 2006. But neither Sink nor McBride showed voters enough to be elected governor. It simply wasnt enough for Florida voters that McBride isn't Bush. And it wasnt enough for voters that Sink isn't Scott.
Sink promised to stay active on Friday and perhaps she will. But she's heading to the sidelines, and that means the shadow boxing and charades about other candidates offering major challenges to Crist and Scott are starting to come to an end. Florida can ready itself for a showdown between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.