MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s official. The showdown for the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee will come down to Governor Rick Scott and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Crist trounced his Democratic rival — State Senator Nan Rich — by a wide margin. The question is — will Crist’s victory — which was seen by many as a foregone conclusion — be enough to energize the Democratic base and send him back to the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee?
As this race shifts to a showdown between the current and former Governor, Rick Scott’s deep pockets and message will be lined up in Crist’s way.
Crist basked in the glow of his primary victory on Tuesday night at a party in Fort Lauderdale at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six.
But he knows the real work begins now.
“In 70 days we want to make Florida Scott free,” Crist told a crowd of supporters.
Scott captured his primary Tuesday over two little known challengers. He campaigned Tuesday in Palmetto Bay and stuck to his message of being the jobs governor — creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.
“My mom used to say to me, ‘Rick, study hard, work hard and anything’s possible,'” Scott told supporters. “I want to make sure that’s true for every Florida family.”
Crist also took aim at Crist.
“When he was Governor, he lost 832,000 jobs, cut education funding,” Scott said. “He left me with a mess.”
Crist’s supporters say Crist governed during a recession. Crist fired back at Scott in his victory speech, saying Scott opposes equal pay for women, cut education funding and is out of touch on issues concerning the environment.
“(Scott) thinks everything is ok because life is good for those at the top but too many Florida families feel like he’s not looking out for them,” Crist said.
What’s next in this race is likely to be a blitzkrieg of negative ads in one of the most expensive races in the nation. The question is will voters see beyond each candidate’s flaws. Crist’s past as a long time Republican and his very public switch to the Democratic Party could haunt him. Scott, meanwhile, has suffered through low approval ratings virtually his entire term in office.
Campaign cash will be key.
In 2010, Scott spent a reported $73 million dollars of his own fortune to capture the Governor’s race. Estimates this election year are that Scott and his donors could spend $100 million to Crist’s $50 million.
On Tuesday night, Crist didn’t seem focused on the money. Rather for him, it was about his message.
“We have to help (voters) imagine a future where we actually invest in the middle class, in our kids’ education, in our small businesses and we help ensure everyone has a fair shot,” Crist said.
Polls show these candidates basically even or with a slight edge going to Scott.
How nasty will this race be? Renowned political blog 538.com studied the numbers. They say Charlie Crist and Rick Scott may be the “least-liked pair of candidates for any governor’s race in the past 10 years.”