Thursday, August 10, 2006

Florida Governor Race

Race of the Day

August 10, 2006
89 Days Until Election Day

Florida Governor

Status: Republican Open
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Leans Republican

There would be almost nothing that would make Democrats nation wideand particularly in Florida feel better on a symbolic level than to see the eight-year political reign of Governor Jeb Bush end with seeing the President's brother being replaced by a Democrat. Needless to say, they would consider it a lucky harbinger of what might happen two years later. Some Democrats have simply never gotten over the disputed 2000 Presidential election in the Sunshine State that included recounts, hanging chad, court decisions, and a whole lot of drama with Governor Bush finally seeing his state tipping thePresidential scales to his older brother.

Since the 2000 election, Florida Democrats have vowed to take revenge at the ballot box against both the Governor and the President but have been unsuccessful as both men went on to be reelected by significantly increased margins and Florida has been trending Republican at other levels and branches of government at the same time. While his brother's job approval numbers have taken a hit the past year plus, Jeb Bush continues to be fairly popular as he winds down his term as Governor and seeks to see his legacy completed with a Republican successor, as he might perhaps one day down the road also covet the White House.

There are a bevy of little known candidates who would like to be Governor of Florida but the early September primary will come down to a Final Four with two main Democrats and two main Republicans battling to square off with each other two months later.

The Democrat candidates are Congressman Jim Davis from Central Florida and State Senator Rod Smith, who grew up in South Florida, but has his political base in Northern Florida. Some have wanted to see these two candidates decide to spare the party the primary process and team up with one taking on the role as the candidate for Lt. Governor.While that still might happen after the primary, both candidates continue to be intent on moving
forward for the state's number one position.

Both have impressive party endorsements that dip into the more liberal and more moderate wings of the party and both will make the case that they are more electable in November. Davis might have a bit of an edge in that regard as he is backed by former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham and others closely associated with former Democrat Governors. Recent polling shows that a very large number of Democrat voters remain undecided between the two men, but among those who have made up their minds, Davis has consistently held a lead over Smith, although recent polling has shown that lead to be somewhat smaller than might have been expected. In hypothetical matchups against Republicans, Davis runs stronger than Smith does. The number of undecided Democrat primary voters indicates that while the Davis will be rated the favorite, either candidate could easily come away with the nomination.

The Republican contest for the Gubernatorial nomination had also been quite spirited and features two candidates who have won statewide office more than once as well as having been defeated statewide either in a primary or general election. It now looks though as if that race has basically been decided.

Florda Attorney General Charlie Crist and State CFO Tom Gallagher also both have impressive endorsements from throughout the party, but Gallagher had been considered the choice of more conservatives. Crist is from Central Florida while Gallagher is from the southern part of the state. Many felt that since Gallagher has unsuccessfully run for Governor more than once before in the primaries (and also once dropped out of a U.S. Senate primary), that it might be his turn to finally carry the party banner in a general election. For his part, Crist lost a very uphill U.S. Senate race to Bob Graham in 1998. Since those defeats, both GOP candidates have been elected to other statewide Cabinet positions before winning their current statewide offices.

The campaign of Gallagher has fallen quite dramatically over the past few months among negative publicity surrounding his personal finances and a long-ago divorce. Crist has seen a once small lead in the polls continue to grow and very few people now believe that he will not easily capture the nomination in September. In the past few days, Gallagher has apparently considered but rejected the idea of ending his campaign, but perhaps recognizing the obvious, has decided that he will not engage in a negative “scorched earth” campaign against Crist, which would harm the eventual nominee for the general election.

Despite the fact that Gallagher no longer looks viable for the nomination, he is still competitive in hypothetical matchups with the Democrats, being in a virtual dead heat with Davis, and slightly ahead of Smith. There has even been some talk that after the state’s primaries, Gallagher could find himself as a replacement U.S. Senate nominee for the embattled Katherine Harris. It looks clearly though that Tom Gallagher’s two-decade plus quest to be Governor of Florida is not going to come to fruition.

Throughout his political career, Crist, who is divorced, has had to endure some gossip regarding his personal life. Nonetheless, Florida conservatives have proven willing in the past to support Crist in general election contests. There was an anonymous website that received some notice a few months back leveling some innuendo at Crist, but it certainly has not seemed to have much effect on the well-funded candidate in the Republican primary.

Crist has taken some positions that are not in line with most Republicans, but he has somehow managed to not have those positions turn into political pratfalls and he has impressed many with his performance on the campaign trail thus far. He currently leads Davis in every public poll, and some have seen that lead reach into the double digits. Crist’s advantage over Smith in those polls is even more pronounced.

How the two primary races play out between now and next month's primary and how the supporters of the defeated primary candidates rally around the eventual winners will play a large role in how the race heads to the home stretch. The Democrats have two credible candidates whose nomination should make for an interesting open seat contest and the unlikelihood of a landslide.

However, the likely Republican candidate has a proven record of being elected statewide before in such a large and diverse place as Florida, which has lately seen a general electoral trend of the towards Republicans. The fact that the GOP primary has turned into somewhat of an anti-climax and the fact that the U.S. Senate situation is so bleak for Republicans, will have party voters more inclined to rally around the primary winner for Governor, than they might have otherwise been.

While nothing can be taken for granted in a state like Florida, the continued popularity of the Jeb Bush Administration, fundraising advantages, and the current poll numbers, seem to indicate that the Republican has to be considered at least somewhat of a favorite going in to what will be a fairly quick two month general election campaign.

Florida GOP link (Crist will have my support in the general election but because of his position on the Schiavo matter, I just cannot express support for him in a primary while he still has an opponent):

2006 Governor Races predicted thus far: 2 D, 6 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 10 D, 12 R

Political self-test

Thanks to Daniel over at, I have found this link:

I am nowhere near tech savvy enough to be able to include the results graphics, etc, but check it out. The questions are not the greatest and force you to make some decisions just to pick what answer most closely represents your position, but it is a quick and easy quiz.

Here is my Political Profile:

Overall: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

What do you people have?