After Scott-Crist Poll, Political Observers Remain Unsure How Race Will Play Out
Around the State
A poll released Monday showing Gov. Rick Scott inching ahead of former governor Charlie Crist in the 2014 gubernatorial election produced no real consensus among politicos of where this high-visibility race is going or how it will affect either candidate.
“This should force the Crist campaign to see that the race is still very, very close despite all of the negative press the governor has endured over the last month,” said political blogger Peter Schorsch. “I think it’s time to tramp down some of those expectations inside and around Crist World that ... the race is going better than it is.”
“This race has certainly tightened up and the governor’s advertising is having a positive effect both on himself ... and who his opponent is going to be,” said Bishop.
Bishop agreed with pollster James Lee that voter turnout would be a big issue for Democrats this year, even if popular issues like medical marijuana are on the ballot.
“If Democrats remain not as engaged in this excitement about voting as Republicans, then these numbers are going to continue to go north for the governor and south for [Crist,]” said Bishop.
But others aren’t so sure. Political consultant Roger Stone told Sunshine State News it’s hard to predict what voter turnout will be with issues like medical marijuana on the ballot.
“We’ve never had marijuana on the ballot before,” he said. “We don’t know whether it brings out more minority voters, more younger voters."
Bishop noted that the demographic which may be most likely to turn out -- those aged between 40 and 50 years old -- are particularly sensitive to the issue of Obamacare. In the long run, that could hurt Crist, who has been vocal about his support for the health care law.
“Those people are going to be thinking about Obamacare as well,” said Bishop.
Bishop also said Crist suffers from a believability problem. “[Voters] are also going to be thinking about the issue that’s going to go to the heart of the Crist candidacy: ‘Can I believe this guy?’" Bishop said. “His inconsistencies are going to come out more ... I think there’s going to be great questions about ... who he really is and what he really stands for.”
Others say Scott has likability issues which haven’t been fixed since the 2010 gubernatorial election.
“More problematic [for Scott] is his unfavorability rating is at an all-time high, never having recessed after the last election,” said Roger Stone. “This poll is a bit more optimistic. That said, the poll did not say that the race was over because Charlie Crist continues to have relatively high unfavorable ratings, but they are substantially under the governor’s, and therefore at this point, they are more manageable.”
Stone explained that although Crist is well-liked, he still has deeper problems the Republican Party could use to their advantage.
“I believe Charlie Crist sold judgeships to Scott Rothstein,” said Stone. “I would be pounding that issue.”
Screven Watson, former Director of the Florida Democratic Party, said both parties need to try to reach out to the independent voters, who may hold the key to the 2014 election.
"Those people in the middle are going to decide this election," he said. "Those folks are all over the map... you can't categorize them easily."
Watson explained both candidates and parties need to put in extra effort to reach voters with no party affiliation.
"Both candidates and parties have to do a lot of research, focus groups and polling to understand what's driving those folks," said Watson. "At this point, it's a lot of social issues [driving the campaign] from medical marijuana to marriage equality."
When contacted for reaction on the poll, both campaigns and parties declined to comment.
Monday’s poll, however, signified to many that the race is far from over.
“There’s too much talk about ‘When Crist wins in November’ and too much talk about legislation that may be changed because Crist is going to win in November,” said Schorsch. “There’s a lot of putting the horse before the cart. This is going to be an exceptionally close race.”
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.