In the end money did not buy Rick Scott love. But it did buy him the Florida governor’s mansion. After an extremely nasty campaign fueled by his own considerable wealth, Scott has felled yet another establishment politician. He declared victory this morning, and Democrat Alex Sink is on TV conceding right now.
With 6,841 of 6,881 precincts reporting, Scott leads 48.8%-47.8%.[TPM SLIDESHOW: Stranger Than Fiction? TPM Casts The 2010 Midterm Elections]
In Florida’s August primary, Scott’s victim was establishment GOP choice Bill McCollum. Using deeply negative ads and leveraging the state’s angry tea party base, Scott knocked McCollum off his trip to the nomination late in the game. This time around, Scott used similar tactics to take out the Democratic establishment nominee, Alex Sink, the state’s Chief Financial Officer.
Democrats pinned their hopes on Sink early, and though they privately breathed a sigh of relief when McCollum went down to Scott, they continued to hail her as a formidable candidate who could take back the Florida governorship for the Democrats after Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist stepped down.
But Sink had her stumbles — such as when she got caught cheating in a televised debate with Scott — and Scott had his super-nasty campaign ads to help take advantage of them.
Scott knows how to use tea party frustration to his advantage, too. He was an early astroturfer of the health care town halls and in the end he was able to astroturf the tea party to his side in the election as well.
What happens now is something of a mystery. Back during the primary, the national and state GOP all but endorsed McCollum and blasted Scott in public. Now he’s going to be the governor of a large swing state that will be very important for the GOP in 2012. How the Republicans and Rick Scott kiss and make up could be an important storyline as we move ahead to the next election night.