Nan Rich's gubernatorial quest is more visible this spring, thanks to GOP attention and a hard swing to the left. But the former Florida senator still has a way to go to make her name a household word in Florida.
The name crisis could cause Rich problems if and when Charlie Crist or Bill Nelson jump into the race. In order not to be left behind in the campaign fundraising hunt, she has to fly higher, run faster. Time is not on her side.
Rich nevertheless may be a good choice for the Democratic Party. Unlike Crist, shes maintained her career-long record as a tried-and-true Democrat.
Crist, on the other hand, suffers from too much name recognition -- that is, too much name reputation. His record is pocked with position changes -- some of them 90 degrees away from each other. He was once a Republican, then he was an independent, and now hes a Democrat. When the time comes to explain himself on his policy flip-flops and the controversies that plagued him while he was governor, Nan Rich may be leading the crusade to get Crist to come clean. He may struggle to keep his head above water, especially if Nan Rich dumps buckets of the stuff over him.
But beyond his record, the one advantage Crist has over Rich is his name. For better or worse, who doesn't know Charlie? Thats important for a gubernatorial campaign.
Rich recently has had her problems within the Democratic Party. She was snubbed when party hierarchy failed to invite her to speak at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Hollywood. Rich was miffed and said so.
"I think it's inappropriate," she explained. "I've been a candidate for a year. I've traveled the state and built a significant infrastructure and grassroots support. And I'm just asking for five minutes."
Among the list of speakers for this year's June 15 event is U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Rumors have been swirling about the possibility of Nelson also making a gubernatorial run in 2014. Hes got nearly four decades of experience in Florida politics, knows how win statewide and would be in a good position to defeat Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
Nelsons done a good job at gaining votes from both parties all over the state, even in places where Republicans tend to do well. Take Brevard County. Gov. Rick Scott beat his competitor, Alex Sink, by nearly 6 percent in 2010. Nelson flipped the district in 2012 while Romney was running away there. Romney walked away with 55.8 percent of the votes in Brevard County, while Nelson took 51 percent, beating out Connie Mack by nearly 6 percent.
Nelson also has the notoriety that Rich doesnt, and it appears the Democratic Party wants to keep it that way.But Rich is gaining publicity from her partys snub -- even the Republican Party of Florida blasted the Dems for their decision.
Its unclear, however, if the Republican Party is trying to give Rich more air time in an attempt to distract voters from Crist, Nelson and other possible contenders. Whatever the reason, Nan Rich may end up benefiting -- voters are getting a chance to become more familiar with her, which could reel them into her consistent record and make her a viable candidate for the 2014 campaign. Time will tell if it's too little too late.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.