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Rick Scott Beats Charlie Crist on Ethics, Catches him on Empathy

September 2, 2014 - 6:00pm
This weeks Tampa Bay Times poll contained plenty of bad news for Charlie Crist, outside of trailing Rick Scott, revealing why the Democrat simply isnt living up to expectations as the general election season gets into full swing.

Crist started his campaign with Florida voters seeing him as charming, charismatic and as somebody who cares about everyday people. Scott and his allies have been pelting Crist for months in attack ads running across Florida. But these attacks wouldnt have had much impact if they were baseless. Crist has only himself to blame for his evaporating big lead over Scott in the polls.

Scotts team has never bothered to hide the basic strategy of their campaign. Instead of trying to leapfrog ahead of Crist, they decided to drag the Democrat back to where Scott was with a flurry of attack ads.

The Tampa Bay Times poll indicates this plan is working so far. Scott is doing better than Crist in some key areas, including those which were supposed to be in the Democrats wheelhouse.

Crist has made much of Columbia/HCAs legal problems under Scotts watch, even promising to talk about them as much as he can. But, according to the poll, Scott is seen as more trustworthy than Crist. Asked if Scott can be trusted, 44 percent said yes and 45 percent said no. When the question was asked about Crist, only 37 percent said yes and 53 percent said no.

Scott also beats out Crist as being seen as more honest and ethical. Asked if Scott is honest and ethical, 39 percent said yes and 51 percent said no. Crist does worse with 35 percent saying yes and 53 percent saying no.

Crist is also seen as less of a leader than Scott, with 47 percent saying the Democrat is one and 46 percent saying he isnt. Scott is seen as a leader by 53 percent though 40 percent dont think he is.

But where Crist should really be concerned is Scott closing in on him on over who is seen as more empathetic. The charismatic Crist should be destroying Scott, a rich businessman who often presents an awkward public persona. Instead, 46 percent say Crist understands their problems while 45 percent think he doesnt. That isnt that far off where Scott is, since 44 percent say the governor understands their problems while 47 percent say he doesnt.

Crist is now behind Scott on ethics and barely ahead of him in empathy, a far cry from the start of the campaign when the Democrat was lapping the governor on both fronts and, not coincidentally, ahead of him in the polls by large margins. To be sure, Scotts many attack ads helped turn things around.

But Crists record has also undermined his lead. Having run for a decade as a conservative Republican, after facing his first loss in years Crist left the GOP during his Senate bid to run with no party affiliation. Two years later, Crist joined the Democrats and is now playing up his liberal positions. No wonder Floridians now think he is less trustworthy than Scott.

Crists constant campaigns for different offices havent helped either: Senate in 1998 and 2010, education commissioner in 2000, attorney general in 2002, governor in 2006 and now 2014. Not once did Crist bother to seek a second term, making him the first governor to forgo running for a second term since the Florida Constitution was changed back in 1968. This -- and the fact he ran for the Senate instead of a second term while Florida saw its worst economy in decades -- makes Crist look more concerned about his own ambitions than helping average Floridians.

Scotts attacks have drawn blood but Crist put himself in this position. With two months to go, Crists numbers are dropping. He has to turn things around or else he will lose this election, something that seemed unfathomable a year ago.

Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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