The Campaign Spot

Florida Democrats, Having Doubts About Crist in 2014

Perhaps Florida Democrats aren’t as enthusiastic about adopting Charlie Crist as one of their own as the initial coverage suggested:

Major Democratic financial backers,including trial lawyers and teachers, are gushing about Charlie Crist and his prospects for 2014.

Crist has not announced plans to run for governor again, but polls show him trouncing Republican Gov. Rick Scott by double digits.The lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat at this point looks like he could grab the Democratic nomination without even a serious challenge.

But oh-so-quietly, veteran Democratic fundraisers and strategists across Florida worry about another scenario: a Charlie Crist train wreck that would ensure a second term for one of America’s most vulnerable Republican governors. The wariness and even downright hostility to Crist’s candidacy are part of what’s fueling speculation about Sen. Bill Nelson entering the race.

Grassroots Florida Democrats did their best to defeat Crist in 2000 (in the race for Florida Education Commissioner), in 2002 (for attorney general), in 2006 (in the governor’s race) and in 2010 (as an independent candidate for Senate). After spending a decade telling voters that he’s the wrong choice, they may not be too eager to make him their new standard-bearer.

Sen. Bill Nelson, meanwhile, is a strangely low-profile three-term senator. PPP found that 38 percent approve of his performance, 40 percent disapprove, and 22 percent aren’t sure. This is after winning reelection handily, 55 percent to 42 percent, just a few months ago.

There’s some dispute as to just how bad Rick Scott’s approval rating is, with two pollsters showing extremely bad news and one showing not-so-bad:

PPP’s survey, released Tuesday, said only 33 percent of voters viewed Scott favorably, compared to 57 who did not. The Q Poll, released today, had that rating at 36-49.

But AIF, in an 800-voter survey that Associated Industries of Florida President Tom Feeney said shows “a clear contradiction [to] recently released polling data that has Governor Rick Scott’s approval rating in the low 30s,” said Scott’s approval rating is “holding strong” with 47 percent of Florida voters approving the job Scott is doing (though 49 percent don’t.)

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, above, holding up his change-of-party membership form, which he filled out in the White House.

UPDATE:  A beautiful detail in that story: “Among those who says he encouraged Nelson to run? Crist’s boss and top cheerleader, John Morgan, the trial lawyer whose Morgan & Morgan TV ads blanket much of Florida. Morgan and Nelson discussed it over dinner at Luma in Winter Park in February, but Nelson was non-committal.”

In case you’ve missed Charlie Crist’s television commercial for that law firm:


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