It's no secret that national Democrats would prefer to face Scott in the the general election. He's got more baggage than an airport carousel, and as a political novice Democrats think he's a much easier target than the professional pol McCollum. A Scott win would be something of a coup for the party, which has seen its likely nominee, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, run a fairly lackluster campaign so far. (Sink has her own problems, having drawn a potentially high-profile challenge from the son of legendary Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who is running as an independent.)
Scott, who carries with him a natural affiliation to the tea party vote after personally sponsoring some of the earliest town hall protests in opposition to the health care law last year, has spent millions on ads building his won name ID and attacking McCollum as not conservative enough. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Scott leading McCollum by a margin of 44-31.
According to the Times article, Florida Republicans are starting to worry about how McCollum is fighting off this attack. He's never been the most bombastic candidate, and people worry his personal style is no match for a well-funded campaign aimed squarely at the right. Check this doozy of a quote from the Times:
If McCollum can't close that gap in a hurry, ``All of the traditional donors will have to start looking at what they have been doing,'' said Steve Madden, a lobbyist who serves on McCollum's statewide finance team. ``You have to start looking at who has the most potential viability to win. . . . The majority of voters want to be with the winner -- that's our core personality trait.''
There are signs that McCollum is stepping up his game. His campaign sent out a mailer this week smacking Scott on abortion, claiming that the wealthy former Columbia HCA CEO "profited" from the practice because some of hospitals in the company he ran terminated pregnancies. (The Scott campaign told the Times dismissed the charge, calling it "a personal insult from a hypocritical career politician who is dropping like a rock in the polls.")
But on his blog, former Palm Beach Post political editor Brian Crowley reports that some Republicans are already moving on from McCollum. It could be Crist vs. Marco Rubio all over again.
"[T]his is starting to feel eerily familiar," Crowley writes. "A lesser known candidate suddenly surges and the presumed frontrunner is forced to change plans."
For his part, McCollum acknowledges he's in a hole, but says there's still time to climb out.
"The person who has a record for everybody to see is going to be there,'' McCollum told the Times. "On the other hand, there's a fellow [Scott] that people don't know who he is, and when they find out who he is, it's not going to be a pretty picture.''