Scott Knocks Out McCollum
Around the State
Beating the Republican establishment in a costly and combative campaign, Rick Scott seized the GOP nomination for governor Tuesday.
Scott's narrow victory over Attorney General Bill McCollum was hard-fought to the finish. Over a bitter, five-month campaign, McCollum accused Scott, a former CEO at Columbia/HCA, of financial misdealings while Scott tarred McCollum as a career politician.
"What I say to every Floridian, come join us," offered Scott to a giddy, cheering crowd at his victory party. "If you can imagine Florida with full employment, come join us. If you can imagine schools that put our children first, come join us. If you can imagine a government that is small and smart and focused on serving you, come join us."
As it turns out, a Voter Service Survey poll conducted for Sunshine State News on Aug. 12-15 pegged the final result almost exactly right -- Scott winning by a margin of 44-42.
Scott spent an estimated $50 million of his own money since entering the race in April. McCollum expended $21 million, with heavy infusions of cash from 527 campaign organizations, corporate donors and leading GOP lawmakers.
All of which added up to the priciest election in Florida history -- and one of the most closely watched races in the country.
While Tea Party groups have scored upsets in smaller states this year, Scott's win in the nation's fourth largest state was a significant milestone for the conservative movement. Putting McCollum on the defensive on hot-button issues, notably immigration, Scott's well-funded, insurgent campaign took down an established 30-year politician.
Scott, who resides in Naples but established his campaign headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, dominated Southwest Florida and North Florida in Tuesday's voting, which saw a relatively light turnout.
In the final days, a flurry of polls showed the race swinging wildly. A Mason-Dixon survey showed McCollum up by 8 points. Others showed smaller leads for both Scott and McCollum.
Now it's on to the Nov. 2 general election, where Scott will face Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer.
In his victory remarks to a festive, triumph-minded crowd of about 500 people at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Scott called Sink a tool of special interests. "They like my Democratic opponent, she plays by their rules."
While McCollum and Scott bloodied each other, Sink had only token opposition in her primary, enabling her to conserve her campaign war chest.
The scars from the Republican primary may be slow to heal. Early Tuesday afternoon, the party announced that it had scrapped plans for a unity rally in Tampa on Wednesday.
And in light of RPOF Chairman John Thrasher's harsh rebuke Monday of Scott's attacks on McCollum, it was unclear how hard party machinery will work for Scott.
Even after Scott amassed a statistically insurmountable lead late Tuesday, McCollum initially refused to concede and no statement was immediately forthcoming from the RPOF.
The Republican Governor's Association wasn't so hesitant, though its statement wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Scott. The RGA stated:
“Intraparty struggles are often difficult to watch, and the contest in Florida has been a good example of that. That said, the primary is over, Rick Scott is the nominee, the general election has begun, and our party now looks forward.
“Alex Sink has had months to run in a clear field and has not gained any traction, showing that her message has failed to connect with voters. She represents the policies of Washington, D.C., Democrats: higher taxes, runaway spending and greater intrusion into the everyday lives of Floridians.
“Couple her flagging campaign with the legitimate candidacy of Bud Chiles, and there is a real battle being waged for Democratic votes in Florida.”
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or (772) 801-5341.