Tuesday’s primary brought a few surprises, a few predictable wins, and one solid fact: with the 2010 election just 70 days away, things are going to start heating up quickly. Here are the races to watch going forward:
Businessman Rick Scott defied conventional wisdom with a 46-43 win over Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum for the GOP nomination – with virtual unknown Mike McCalister taking 10 percent of the vote. But now that Scott has clinched the Republican nomination to be Florida’s next governor, there’s a long road ahead.
After Scott and McCollum spent, by some estimates, close to $70 million attacking each other, it shouldn’t be a surprise that voters no longer think too highly of either – 28 percent of voters view Scott favorably and 40 percent view him unfavorably, according to an Aug. 19 Quinnipiac poll. Democratic nominee Alex Sink, in contrast, is at a cozy 30 percent favorable to 15 percent unfavorable.
Scott will also need to re-unite the party. In branding McCollum as an “insider politician,” his narrative bled into criticism of the Republican Party of Florida, which reacted quite negatively indeed. Scott also feuded with the Republican Governors Association, whose statement on the election results was downright chilly:
“Intraparty struggles are often difficult to watch, and the contest in Florida has been a good example of that. That said, the primary is over, Rick Scott is the nominee, the general election has begun, and our party now looks forward.”
Likewise, McCollum’s concession statement makes no mention of party unity or support for Scott against the Sink this fall.
That said, the primary exposed the chinks in Scott’s armor, which means voters have already heard everything that Sink will throw at him. Indeed, minutes after Scott accepted the nomination, Sink released a web video that could have come from the McCollum campaign itself.
Finally, if Scott continues to invest the type of personal money into his campaign that we’ve seen thus far, he’ll be able to counter everything that the Democrats can throw at him, at least where advertising is concerned.
After several Jeff Greene scandals in the Democratic primary, each new poll showed Greene in worse position than the last. In that sense, Kendrick Meek’s win was no surprise.
The extent of the 58-31 victory, though, seems to have caught everyone – including Meek – off guard. An AP reporter tweeted, “Senate race was called so early, Meek was still getting dressed to watch returns with supporters in his suite.”
Meek’s win is no doubt a boost to Marco Rubio. Since Congressman Meek has a solid-blue record and is African-American, he will be a bigger draw for Democrats than Greene would have been. Now the question is whether, in the face of a true Democratic nominee, Gov. Charlie Crist can maintain strong Democratic support.
A Public Policy Polling survey released yesterday may be the first hint in answer to that question. The poll shows Rubio leading Crist 40-32 with Meek taking 17 percent of the vote. More importantly, Democrats seem to be shifting from Crist to Meek. Tom Jensen writes on the PPP blog that, “Democrats are now going for Meek 39-38 where before they were going for Crist 44-35. As Democrats have gotten to know Meek over the course of the primary campaign they’ve generally decided they like him and that’s cut into Crist’s support for the general election.”
HOUSE: 2nd District
Incumbent Blue Dog Democrat Allen Boyd barely eked out a 51-49 victory over Al Lawson, despite outspending him 10 to 1 – $2 million to $200,000. That may indicate Boyd’s vulnerability. The NRCC has singled him out for its first ad buy this fall.
Funeral home owner Steve Southerland, winner of the Republican primary with 47 percent of the vote, may need the help. He was the clear frontrunner among the GOP candidates, but as of the last FEC reporting period, held only $84,000 to Boyd’s $762,000.
Still, Cook ranks the district as R+6, and Southerland conducted a poll in May that showed him leading Boyd 52-37, so this represents one of the best possibilities for Republicans to pick up a Florida seat.
HOUSE: 8th District
Daniel Webster won the GOP nomination handily in FL-8 with 40 percent of the vote, earning him the honor of facing down liberal firebrand Alan Grayson in November.
Webster, a former speaker of the statehouse and former state senate majority leader, has solid conservative credentials and endorsements from the likes of Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee. That said, his long tenure in Tallahassee isn’t in sync with the anti-incumbent narrative of this election cycle, and he doesn’t seem to be energizing the base. One reader from the district emails that Webster, “has all the personality of a warm glass of milk.”
In addition, Grayson is a tough cookie. First, his fire-and-brimstone rhetoric plays well with the liberal faithful, which brings in the bucks. As of the last FEC reporting period, Grayson had raised $3.7 million so far this election cycle, compared with $326,000 for Webster. Having seven Republicans in the primary race has a way of splitting the donations.
Finally, Grayson doesn’t pull punches. In fact, he pushes punches, if there is such a thing. Grayson has already referred to Webster as “Taliban Dan” in at least two fundraising emails, including this gem:
In the Florida Legislature, Dan Webster sponsored and supported a bill to institute “covenant marriage.” In a covenant marriage, you can’t get divorced.
So Dan Webster’s bill reduces the institution of marriage to a roach motel: You can check in, but you can’t check out. […]
There is only one place where in the entire world where both divorce and annulment are forbidden: The Taliban Government in Northwest Pakistan. And Taliban Dan wants to institute the same rule here. The man with the 19th century name wants to pass 13th century laws, which you and I will have to live by.
Either way, this will be a race to watch.
HOUSE: 22nd District
Both Democratic incumbent Ron Klein and Republican nominee Allen West swept their primary opponents, with 85 percent and 77 percent of the vote, respectively. Since neither faced a strong party challenger, the two have mostly used the primary period to attack each other.
Call it bad blood. West faced Klein in 2008 when he was relatively unknown and lost by a 10 point margin. Now, thanks to rousing tea party speeches and YouTube, he’s a nationally-famous fundraising machine. Politico reported on Aug. 13 that West has outpaced Klein in donations for the fourth consecutive reporting period, bringing in $530,000 in July compared to Klein’s $142,000.
Klein, for his part, has ramped up efforts to paint West as an extremist. Several speeches of West’s have been taped by Democratic staffers, and transcripts have been sent to the media billed as “Allen West in his own words.”
Incensed by co-exist bumper stickers and says people who have them would give away our country: “Because as I was driving up here today, I saw that bumper sticker that absolutely incenses me. It’s not the Obama bumper sticker. But it’s the bumper sticker that says, “Co-exist.” And it has all the little religious symbols on it. And the reason why I get upset, and every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving. Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.
HOUSE: 24th District
As of 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, with 99.6 percent of precincts reporting, state representative Sandy Adams held a 560-vote lead over Verizon executive Karen Diebel – a 30-29 vote split with former Ruth’s Chris CEO Craig Miller picking up 28 percent. No word on whether a recount will be undertaken.
CQ Politics suggests that Adams succeeded largely by picking up endorsements from the NRA and Florida Right to Life, and by standing aside while Miller and Diebel duked it out.
Freshman Democrat Suzanne Kosmas is in a district rated R+4 by Cook, and holds the only Florida district rated a “toss-up” by the New York Times. Once the dust settles from the primary and the NRCC cavalry comes rushing in, FL-24 should be a competitive seat.