TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist spent Friday scrambling to persuade voters besieged by negative ads to head to the polls as the final full week of campaigning came to a close.READ MORE: Parental Rights Bill Sent To Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Scott, the Republican incumbent, and Crist, a former GOP governor now running as a Democrat, spent the day in strongholds that could determine whether they win the Governor’s Mansion. Scott made two campaign stops Friday morning in Northeast Florida and was expected to make an appearance in the evening at an event hosted by Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade.
Scott has spent the last two weeks on the trail urging supporters to cast their ballots, either in person Tuesday or through early and absentee voting.
“I know what happened in 2012,” Scott said after an event at Sleiman Enterprises in Jacksonville. “Mitt Romney lost because people didn’t get out to vote. And so I’m going to make sure people know the importance of getting out to vote. … As long as people continue to get out and vote, we’re going to have a big win on Tuesday.”
Romney won Republican-leaning Duval County by about 15,000 votes in the 2012 presidential race — roughly the same margin that Scott won by in 2010. But there were 150,000 more votes in the county in the race between Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama than in Scott’s initial campaign.
The governor’s margin of victory in the county in 2010 accounted for about a quarter of his statewide edge over former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink — and Scott had a higher share of the two-party vote (52.9 percent) than Romney (51.8 percent) or John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, who carried the county with a shade under 51 percent of the vote.
As he has before on the trail, Scott seemed relaxed Friday, joking with reporters and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who arrived late to the event after a problem getting to the venue.
“Your bus driver ditched our bus driver,” Bondi said. “We were right behind you.”
Scott was expected to continue to tour the state with high-profile Republicans over the weekend and through Monday, with events planned in Southwest Florida, Miami-Dade County, The Villages retirement community and Orlando.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — both considered potential 2016 presidential candidates — will campaign with Scott on Saturday in Southwest Florida. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is slated to help Scott on Sunday in Hialeah. And the Orlando event Monday is expected to include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both also considered possible presidential contenders.
Crist, meanwhile, started Friday morning at Munch’s Restaurant in south St. Petersburg. More than half of the diners who shook hands and posed for selfies with the former governor said they had already cast their ballots — for him.
“The message is pretty clear. Get out and vote,” Crist told reporters after chatting with the kitchen staff.
Owner Larry Munch said he, too, had already cast his ballot for Crist. In the former governor’s hometown, which Crist affectionately calls “The ‘Burg,” Munch said his customers — who regularly discuss politics over their morning cups of Joe — are fed up with the seemingly relentless attack ads.
“They’re tired of the mud-slinging,” Munch, cooking ribs on a grill outside his restaurant, told The News Service of Florida. “All you hear is the ads instead of talking about what the topics are. That’s what the talk is over the coffee mugs.”
Crist then met up with Pasco County Tax Collector and former longtime state lawmaker Mike Fasano, who is a close friend of Crist and is a political star in the county.READ MORE: Coral Gables Man Refuses To Sell Family House Swallowed By Massive Development
“This is where elections are decided in Florida,” Crist told reporters before knocking on doors with Fasano in Heritage Lakes, a community where Fasano once lived.
Pasco County, where Republicans have a slight lead over Democrats in voter registration, is considered a bellwether. In 2012, Pasco voters gave Romney a six-point edge over Obama. Four years ago, Scott received 52 percent of the vote in the county, compared to Democratic challenger Alex Sink’s 43 percent.
But Democratic state Rep. Amanda Murphy won a hard-fought special election last fall, giving Democrats hope that Crist — with the help of the wildly popular Fasano — can flip the GOP-leaning county. Murphy said recent polling in her Pasco County district showed Crist with a six-point lead over Scott.
“Our district is definitely changing. Mike Fasano standing out trying to make it more about the person will hopefully change things. I’d like to see more people for the person and not worry about what the letter is behind the name,” said Murphy, accompanying Crist and Fasano.
On his way to knock on doors, Crist was called over by a driver who said he was a Republican and who stopped traffic to get a handshake from the Democratic nominee.
Crist received kudos from Republican and Democratic seniors for abandoning the GOP four years ago. Until 2010, Crist was a lifelong Republican, but he became an independent to avoid a GOP primary against Rubio in the race for U.S. Senate. Rubio went on to defeat Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek. Two years ago, Crist registered as a Democrat.
Mae Stallone, 93, told Crist she admired him for having the courage to switch parties, something the Democrat later said she herself had done four decades ago.
“I admire a person who will go with his gut feeling and change when he wants to,” Stallone told Crist.
“You’ve got to use your brain. And your heart,” Crist said, handing Stallone a daily newspaper that had been sitting outside her home.
Dick Boyle, 86, said he is an independent but is casting his ballot for Crist.
“Put some sense back in the governor’s office. It’s been a long four years,” he told Crist.
A relaxed Crist, wearing a plaid, short-sleeved, button-down shirt and a canvas belt decorated with palm trees, appeared cautiously optimistic about his chances for a victory.
“I feel good about it. I’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it’s going to be close.”
“The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee and Dara Kam contributed to this report.”
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