BY BUDDY NEVINS
After Barack Obama’s victory in Florida this month, the Democrats have turned their guns on Gov. Rick Scott.
Wait a minute.
Despie his low standing in the polls, shoving Scott aside won’t be easy.
Two reasons quickly come to mind:
- Democrats have no candidate to unify behind.
- The turnout will be much less in 2014, an off-year election. Two years from now, the Obama turn-out-the-vote team and its money will have scattered to the wind. There is no way to repeat the Democratic triumph of 2012.
Let’s look at the numbers.
The average turnout for off-year elections in Broward has been 50.49 percent since 1986. That compared with an average turnout of 70.41 percent in Broward since 1986 in presidential election years.
That’s a 20 percent drop-off, or more than 200,000 voters who stay home.
Lower turnout usually means Democrats are at a disadvantage, according to numerous political scientists.
Democrats would have an easier time if they had a candidate.
Let’s look today’s field of Democrats:
- Alex Sink, the former state Chief Financial Officer who lost the 2010 governor’s race after her husband Bill McBride lost in 2006. Florida Trend this month called her campaign “lackluster” and states, “MSNBC branded her the year’s worst candidate.”
- Nan Rich, the term-limited state Senator from Weston who is the only candidate who already announced for governor. She was the Legislature’s most prominent liberal, not a good sell across the state. At 70, she is the oldest Democrat being mentioned. She is unknown outside of Broward and has had trouble raising money – roughly $150,000 so far compared with around $4.5 million for Scott’s Let’s Get To Work committee.
- Dan Gelber, the former Miami-Dade state senator who lost a race for attorney general to Pam Bondi in 2010. Despite running before, Gelber still is largely unknown around the state. And he must carry the Miami-Dade tag, a definitely negative anywhere north of here.
- Charlie Crist, the former Republican-turned-independent governor. Having endorsed the president, Crist is already gathering elements of Obama’s campaign around him. But his fund raising won’t be able to tap the many Republicans who gave to him in the past. He is untested as a Democratic. So it is uncertain of his appeal in a Democratic primary since he was once a GOP conservative nicknamed “Chain Gang Charlie” for his support of punitive punishment for inmates.
- Buddy Dyer, the mayor of Orlando since 2003 who served 10 years in the Florida Senate and lost a 2002 race for attorney general to Crist. Dyer is from the right part of the state, the Interstate 4 corridor, but is unknown outside of Central Florida. He could be tagged as a champion of big government, having engineered the construction of a new sports’ facilities and the SunRail commuter rail.
- Jack Seiler, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale who was in the Florida House eight years. Seiler also is unknown and I would bet that a poll would show him in the single digits even in parts of Broward. Still his moderate, pro-business positions and his calm stewardship of the city during the recent economic downturn is a plus. Here is what Seiler says about the possibility of a race:
“I am still interested in running for Governor at some time. Whether that is 2014 or 2018 is one of the decisions I need to consider and make over the next 3 months. When considering the timing, the primary factors to be considered are the impact on my family (wife and 4 kids), the impact on the City, and the impact on my personal, political, and professional life. Further, as Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, I have the benefit of being home almost every night with my family; I have a great job representing an awesome City; I get to address public policy on a daily basis; and, I have direct interaction and communication with our residents, businesses, and visitors. Serving as Mayor Is truly an enjoyable and rewarding job, and I really would prefer to complete my term (in 2015) and continue to move Fort Lauderdale forward,” Seiler e-mailed Browardbeat.com.
Could putting local-boy Seiler on the ticket pump up the Broward turnout?
Maybe, but probably not enough to make a difference statewide.
So it’s an uphill battle in a state that has recently been bright red in races for statewide office with few exceptions.
The Democrats do have one big factor in their favor: Scott.
Very poor poll numbers, especially on education.
Democrats should remember that today’s poll numbers are meaningless tomorrow. Scott has two years and all the power of the governor’s office to repair his image.
Plus his number one campaign promise, to improve the job picture, has been achieved. It is arguable whether the governor is responsible for any new jobs. He will take credit for them, however.
So it won’t be easy to beat Scott in two years.
It can be done…if the Democrats don’t mess it up.
That’s why I don’t have a tremendous amount of confidence.
Because the one thing the state Democrats have proven they can do well is….bungle elections.