Florida Democrats: Nothing to Work With, Nowhere to Go
Around the State
How desperate are the Democrats in Florida?
With no rising star of their own, with a field of up-and-comers as dull as a dead parrot, they spent this past weekend ripping into Gov. Rick Scott.
They had to. Lurching toward the main event in November and lacking a weapon in their own arsenal, Florida Dems have latched onto Scott as the whipping boy who can make them believe they have a future. Or, so they hope. Scott's low approval numbers and conservative policies are the best they can come up with.
Speaking to reporters at the Florida Democrats' annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner at the Westin Hotel in Hollywood during the weekend, state party chairman Rod Smith said, “The Republican Party has lost their way and have moved so far to the right that they have become the tea party.
"We believe (the governor) has become a voice of the Republican Party of Florida. Apparently their presidential candidate must not agree: on 54 trips I don’t think they’ve gotten together. I’m assuming Governor Romney thinks Tallahassee is a no-fly zone right now.”
Cute joke, but on examination it falls flat.
In the first place, Mitt Romney may not exactly be ready to give Rick Scott a hug, but look at President Obama? When he comes to Florida, who does he have to lean on? It certainly isn't the invisible man, Bill Nelson. After 12 years in the U.S. Senate, Nelson is in an identity crisis. If anything, Obama is the one propping up Nelson, who -- in spite of a larger war chest -- has begun to fall behind U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV in some polls.
In the second place, recent Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen polls show that even though Scott's popularity remains low, Floridians give his tea party policies high support, from ridding Florida's voter rolls of noncitizens this year, to ending teacher tenure, to making state workers contribute to their pensions.
"I wondered about that," said Democrat Ralph Glenn of Miami Lakes, who attended the Hollywood dinner. "I don't think it's in our interest to oppose popular measures that encourage common sense and fiscal restraint."
The point is, Jefferson-Jackson speakers dropped Rick Scott's name disparagingly more often than they did Romney's.
And then, a day prior to the Democrats' desperation dinner came news from the Tampa Bay Times that "intriguing chatter in Washington and Florida political circles" has DNC chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz considering a run for governor in 2014.
Really? I'm betting the intriguing chatter came from the political circles inside the Times, because as trial balloons go, that one barely got off the ground. In fact, by all accounts, the Broward County super-lib couldn't deny the rumor fast enough.
"The chairwoman has a lot invested in D.C.," Washington political consultant A. Ferris Guiletti told Sunshine State News on Sunday, "I can tell you, it's turning off some of the House Democrats who have heard the rumor and she is convinced it's something her enemies are spreading around to hurt her.
"House Democrats want to be able to count on her down the road." said Guiletti. "Besides that, she would be in the running for House speaker if Nancy Pelosi steps down, and the speaker's gavel is the heart Wasserman Schultz wears on her sleeve."
The problem with state Dems trying to catch the wave of Scott's unpopularity is that they may well misread how far they can ride it. Scott has another two years to find a way for his shortfall in communication skills to catch up to the popularity of the policies that put him in the governor's chair.
It's not a great idea to bet against Scott. The Democrats know it good and well, but that is what desperation for the 2012 and 2014 elections has wrought.
A look down the line at possible Democratic gubernatorial contenders against Scott in 2014: his 2010 opponent Alex Sink, whose loser taint has stuck; name-recognitionless Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, who announced her interest in the office last September; former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, epic flip-flopper who left the GOP, unsuccessfully ran without party affiliation for U.S. Senate in 2010, and now frequently consults with Democratic Party leaders. You can forget Bob Graham, former governor and U.S. senator. The media floated that trial balloon earlier in the year, but Graham emphatically denied any interest in running for the office again.
The Dems are in sad shape.
If Rick Scott is the Republicans' weakest link, if he is the most potent offensive weapon Florida Democrats can muster, then mark my words, happy days are here again for the GOP.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.