In the past week, two polls have shown Rick Scott closing Charlie Crists lead as they get ready to fight it out in next years governors race. Crist had been up in the polls by double digits for most of the year.
The University of North Florida (UNF) took a poll which found Crist up 44 percent to 40 percent. The Florida Chamber came out with a poll earlier this week which was pretty similar: Crist leading 46 percent to 41 percent for Scott.
The liberals at Public Policy Polling (PPP) took a poll earlier this month and found Crist beating Scott 50 percent to 38 percent. Its a pretty far cry from what the Florida Chambers poll shows but there is one underlining similarity: Both PPP and the Florida Chamber found there are voters who dont really like Scott as a person but still approve of the work hes done in Tallahassee. Both polls found there are voters who dont have a favorable view of Scott but still intend to vote for him over Crist.
This means Scotts benefiting from a pretty unique political circumstance. A sizable chunk of Scott voters dont really like their guy personally but still intend to vote for him over Crist. Four years after he first surfaced to challenge Obamacare, Scott remains an awkward politician. Scotts attempts at being personally engaging, from his workdays to his gushing tributes to his wife, often fall flat. His lanky frame and jerky movements only reinforce the bad impression. Add to it Scotts often uncompelling speaking style, often repeating himself to hammer his points home, and its easy to see why he hasnt been able to shake off Alex Sinks and Bill McCollums attacks three years after the fact.
Consider Scotts its working theme. Hes repeated it ad nauseum over the last months as companies come to Florida with new jobs. Every time a new office starts up or Floridas unemployment rate dips down a point, Scott is front and center reminding everyone of the progress Floridas made in recent years as the economy bounces back. Its working might be repetitive and simple but its also spot on as more Floridians go back to work. Once Scott gets in campaign mode, itll be his best tool against Crist who tried to bolt to Washington as the unemployment numbers shot up under his watch.
Despite all his flaws as a public speaker and his strained attempts to connect with the public, Scott can count on the support of voters who dont like him but still think he is up to the job in Tallahassee. Scott is serious and focused. Thats not exactly something that can be said of Crist with his various party changes, policy shifts and constant pursuit of the next office.
Its working. Well, maybe not quite yet for Rick Scott. Hes still an underdog against Crist, after all. But two polls have come out in the last week and show Scotts within striking distance and he hasnt shifted over to campaign mode yet. No small thing considering how many pundits and political experts were burying Scott not that long ago.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.