As the unexpectedly contested Florida Republican gubernatorial primary enters its final month, a winner has started to emerge after the millions in negative TV ads plastered across the state by state Attorney General Bill McCollum and wealthy businessman Rick Scott — and that lucky candidate is Democratic candidate Alex Sink.
Last week, a fresh poll of the governor’s race showed that despite being the third wheel in the second-most entertaining Florida political soap opera of the year, Sink has managed to pull ahead of both Republican candidates in general election matchups, thanks to tanking favorability numbers for both Scott and McCollum.
According to local press reports out of Florida, Republicans are starting to get nervous about Scott, the frontrunner for the party’s nomination. Scott looks like the guy who’ll win Aug. 24, leaving Florida Republicans with perhaps the most damaged Republican candidate for governor since Jim Giibbons. Even if Scott somehow loses to McCollum, his spending (plus McCollum’s own problems of course) have Democrats overjoyed with the situation. In fact, things have played out in Sink’s favor beyond the Democrats’ wildest hopes ever since Scott jumped into the race back in April.“Not even Aaron Sorkin could have written a script this good,” one Washington Democrat told me.
In recent days, focus has shifted away from how McCollum might bounce back and win the GOP nomination to what Republicans will do with Scott as their nominee. Some party leaders have said they’re nervous about Scott’s lack of ties to the party while others have said that the ugly war between Scott and McCollum is driving them to Sink’s camp.
Meanwhile, Sink has quietly been campaigning off on her own and seeing her poll numbers rise. The Democratic source with knowledge of Sink’s efforts pointed out that Sink, the state’s Chief Financial Officer, has stuck to the campaign trail and stayed above the fray as Scott and McCollum have dragged their own primary race into the mud.
Sink appears to have, so far, beaten back the potential threat from political scion Bud Chiles, the son of a legendary Democratic governor who is running as an independent. Chiles is polling in the low double-digits, but so far hasn’t emerged as much of an issue for Sink.
And with a month to go until the GOP primary, there’s more good news for Sink: neither Scott nor McCollum show any sign of quieting down anytime soon. McCollum had been struggling against Scott’s self-financed juggernaut of a campaign, but he just got a big infusion of cash from the state’s public financing system which should help him stay on the air through the end of the primary. Scott, meanwhile, has spent $22.9 million so far and will likely spend more as things roll on.
The final result of the GOP primary may be closer than people think — McCollum has been around a longtime in Florida politics, and it’s unlikely he’ll give up on beating Scott before it’s all over. But whomever takes home the most Republican votes on Primary Day, if things continue as they are, the real winner on August 24 will probably be Alex Sink.