On paper, it looks like an epic battle. A popular governor who, just after being short-listed for his party's presidential ticket decides to leave and run for Senator only to switch parties and come back to face the party outsider who won an all-out war to replace him in a state that's been through five years of economic turmoil. Instead, it's potentially the least exciting Florida Governor's race in the last two decades.
Why? For starters neither candidate can tell the truth … ever.
Okay, maybe Rick Scott or Charlie Crist utters something every once in a while that isn't disingenuous, untrue, half-true or outright fabricated, but most Floridians who haven't drank one of the parties' Kool-Aid are too numbed by deceit to notice.
Scott, a billionaire hospital entrepreneur who got rich robbing the federal government, spent tens of millions of his own money and got swept up in a 2010 populist movement that saw him defeat a presumptive nominee who couldn't have been more sure-footed in his bid for the governor's mansion. His name was Bill McCollum, since most people have probably forgotten.
That looked like good news for Democrat Alex Sink – quite possibly the worst political candidate that party has ever fielded for a statewide race – who still couldn't limp over the finish line against a relatively unknown and largely disliked Scott.
The Tea Party helped carry Scott to victory, though he lost much of their support when he quickly pivoted toward party politics once in office. He's made nice with an RPOF that hadn't been initially warm to the party outsider, and they seem in sync as he heads into his reelection bid. Clearly they'd rather work with Scott than Crist, who had an even more contentious relationship with his party's legislative leadership and made frequent use of the veto pen.
Crist has run his campaign essentially on the “at least I'm not Rick Scott” platform. While Scott has flown fast and loose with the facts regarding his attacks on Crist, along with his trumped up accomplishments, Crist has been no more trustworthy. Because he seems to say so little, it just rings a bit louder when he's pulling a Pinocchio.
Crist refused to debate his Democratic primary opponent, liberal former state Senator Nan Rich, and was aided by a weak state party so thrilled to have received the gift of a convert with statewide name recognition – and one who has the attention of the national party – that they gave him carte blanche from the time rumors of his bid started circling, back before Crist had even joined their party.
At the end of the day, voters don't seem to be paying much attention to what either of them have been saying, and I don't blame them. Maybe that will change once they begin their debates, but I imagine that these two candidates could easily fill an hour with baseless – and factless for that matter – attacks on each other, so I won't hold out much hope there either.
The election will likely come down to who shows up, as turnout is expected to be particularly lousy. Consider this: largely-unknown Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie has been polling as high as 11 percent, despite the fact that less than a third of that many people seem to know who he is.
That means that about 1 in 12 Floridians who plan on voting at all, seem likely to cast a protest vote – anybody but these two party clowns. Part of me thinks that's a good thing, since it might encourage more third party candidates. Part of me thinks it's a sure sign we're going to hell in a hand basket, as my Nana used to say. Time will tell.
Dennis Maley's column appears every Thursday and Sunday in The Bradenton Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to visit his column archive. Click here to go to his bio page. You can also follow Dennis on Facebook.
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