TALLAHASSEE (NSF/CBSMiami) — Just one day after Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist became the newly approved Democratic nominee the hammering continues from each side.
After a primary season that was merely a formality for Gov. Rick Scott and only marginally less so for Crist, the incumbent Republican would unleash his financial advantage on his Democratic challenger.
But Scott, the Republican Party of Florida and a committee linked to the governor’s bid for re-election have already been hammering Crist for months in television ads, email blasts to reporters and sometimes in tours of the state ostensibly meant to promote Scott’s policy agenda.
To be fair, Crist has taken his share of swipes at Scott as well. But with Scott’s expected financial advantage and the need to focus on building up a campaign infrastructure for November, Crist has been less aggressive on television, at least in some corners of the state.
A statement issued after Tuesday night’s primary-election results became official left little doubt that Scott was going to spend more time contrasting his record with Crist’s time as a governor.
“The next few months are about talk versus action,” Scott said. “That means Florida will have a choice between a governor who sent our state into a tailspin and a governor who gets results. Charlie Crist failed as governor, lost 830,000 jobs, and tried to run off to Washington — and now he wants his job back.”
Officially, Scott’s campaign says it won’t discuss strategy for the general election. But spokesman Greg Blair previewed another potential line of attack against Crist: trying to tie the former governor to President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings have sagged nationally as well as in Florida.
“Charlie Crist said Obamacare is ‘great’ and he wants President Obama to come in and campaign with him,” Blair said Wednesday. “The only question on the table now is how many hours will pass after the balloon drop at Crist’s primary night party before he reverses his unwavering support of Obamacare.”
One reason Scott could keep up the barrage against Crist is that it appears to be working. A Quinnipiac University poll in July showed Crist leading by five percentage points in a head-to-head matchup with Scott, down from as much as 16 points early last year. When Libertarian Adrian Wyllie was thrown into the mix, Crist’s lead shrank to two points.
But that survey also reflected a problem for Scott that the ads don’t appear to have fixed: Fifty-one percent of voters said they don’t believe the governor deserves a second term — a number that has been stuck at 50 percent or above in every Quinnipiac poll stretching back to at least December 2012.
There’s also a question of how much voters can take. Both Scott and Crist have traded shots in the press for months now, with Crist virtually ignoring his primary opponent, former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich.
Crist sent out a fundraising email Wednesday that blasted Scott.
“We’re about to run full-speed into Rick Scott’s $100 million campaign — funded by corporations, special interests, and his own personal wealth, earned primarily through committing massive Medicare fraud,” the email said, referring to Scott’s resignation as chief executive of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain in the 1990s amid fraud allegations. “Over the last few months, Scott has shown the people of Florida that he’ll say anything, do anything, and pay for whatever he thinks it’ll take to tear us down.”
Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, said Wednesday that the declining voter turnout in the presidential election in 2012 and this year’s primaries could indicate that voters have had enough of negative ads from all sides.
“People are very weary of it, and in some of the bigger media markets, it’s just been non-stop for months,” she said.
“The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee contributed to this report.”
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