With no Senatorial race and some potentially interesting congressional races, most of the attention this year will be focused on the gubernatorial race pitting former Republican turned independent turned Democrat Charlie Crist against incumbent Republican Rick Scott. To state that Scott’s first term got off to a rocky start would be an understatement. Starting earlier this year, Scott’s approval and popularity ratings started to improve. Still, he remained a vulnerable target for the Democrats.
Most speculated that the Democrats would have Crist run against Scott from the start. In the end, there was little drama in his primary battle against Nan Rich. Likewise, the GOP coalesced around Scott as the primary neared and he easily won his. Since then, polling has been up and down with neither candidate a clear leader at even this late stage in the game. But, here is the problem for Crist: he needs about 90% of the black vote in Florida to push him over the top while polls indicate that he may have topped out at 72% approval among blacks. This is perhaps attributable to the fact Crist was a recent Republican Governor and the voting blacks have not forgotten. Unmentioned in the entire scenario is the presence of Adrian Wyllie on the ballot for the Libertarian Party. While Libertarian candidates generally hurt the GOP’s chances in general elections, his presence on the ballot may actually pull votes from Crist, especially those blacks unwilling to give their votes to either Scott or Crist.
Two months ago, Scott’s chances were on life support, but as the campaign proceeded he has improved dramatically although it has been a roller coaster ride. April polling had him down three points and then he gradually increased to leading by three points at the end of August before dropping back somewhat until recently. Although overall trailing by an average of 0.35 points in all polls since the beginning of 2014, his upward trend and recent close polls allows this writer to believe that Rick Scott will win reelection by a very small margin.
In the congressional races there exists the possibility of change. The GOP holds the advantage here 17-10. Two of the districts are considered legitimate battlegrounds by the national pundits- the 18th and the 26th, both currently held by Democrats. As mentioned before, Florida is a microcosm of America in general. The panhandle resembles the Old South while the east coast- especially as one heads south- is more like the liberal Northeast with the west coast more like the practical conservatism indicative of the Midwest. The central area around Orlando is the changing face of the state with its growing Latino population.
Some consider [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001186′ ] vulnerable in the 2nd District and he may be in some heavily black areas. But this panhandle-based district is conservative enough to send him back to Congress. It will be close, but Southerland by about 3 points.
[mc_name name=’Rep. John Mica (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M000689′ ] is used to large victories, but this is another changing district and although he will win, look for a drop off in his margin of victory in the northeastern based 7th District.
The 9th is a redrawn district as the result of Florida gaining seats after the 2010 census which created an opening for Democratic firebrand [mc_name name=’Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’G000556′ ] to find his way back to Washington. Cook puts this district at +4 Democratic while I have it +8 for the Democrats. Nothing would please me more than to see Grayson retired again, but Carol Platt will likely go down to defeat and we will be stuck with 2 more years of Grayson’s bellicosity. Redistricting has certainly favored the Democrats here.
Likewise, the 10th- located in the central part of Florida- is one of those areas with a growing Hispanic population which identifies more with the Democratic Party. Still, Republican [mc_name name=’Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’W000806′ ] should prevail.
The 18th District- currently represented by Democrat [mc_name name=’Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M001191′ ]- is actually a GOP-leaning district. Murphy barely defeated Allen West in 2012 and that may have been attributable to West himself and not the Republican brand. Murphy will face former state representative Carl Domino this year who rather easily won a crowded primary. Despite Murphy’s attempts to run to the center in this campaign, it is a local issue that may decide the outcome- the All Aboard Florida passenger train from Miami to Orlando that many in the district oppose. Domino has been trying to portray Murphy as a proponent of the project despite Murphy’s past public criticisms of the train. In the end, it is likely that Murphy will hold this seat for the Democrats.
I am mentioning the 23rd District only because it is represented by a modern-day rendition of Medusa- Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, perhaps the one Democrat with the most 4 Pinnochio noses from FactCheck.org. Her defeat would be great for American politics but the voters in this liberal stronghold would likely elect a Democratic manatee rather than a Republican.
The final race of interest, and perhaps the greatest chance for a GOP pick up in Florida, is the 26th district located at the southern tip of the state. It is currently represented by Democrat [mc_name name=’Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’G000573′ ]. There was intrigue here on the GOP side as the embattled former GOP representative, David Rivera, launched a bid for his old seat. That did not sit well with the Florida GOP. He then suspended his campaign only to revive it again and challenge eventual primary winner Carlos Curbelo. Rivera was considered a liability because of his continued legal case involving a complicated campaign finance scheme. Some accused the Democrats of playing dirty tricks here in order to either (1) make the vulnerable Rivera the candidate or (2) pull resources away from Curbelo. For his part- despite claims by those on the Left that election fraud is a myth- Garcia has been implicated in two fraudulent activities in previous campaigns involving absentee ballots and straw candidates.
I believe the people of the 26th District deserve better than David Rivera and [mc_name name=’Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’G000573′ ] and are ready for a change. That change will come in the name of Carlos Curbelo this year in a 3-5 point victory.
Next: Maine and Massachusetts where the emphasis is on the gubernatorial races.