The battle in Florida between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and party shifter Charlie Crist is bringing out the big bucks in what is being billed as the costliest and meanest gubernatorial race in the country.
Scott, who is slightly behind Crist in the polls, has splashed out $10 million on TV ads alone for his campaign, and there’s still another five more months to go before the November election, the Miami Herald
Crist, who was a Republican, then an independent and now a Democrat, has not coughed up one penny on TV commercials. Instead, he’s countering his rival’s deep-pocketed campaign by running a hectic schedule to garner as much free TV and newspaper publicity he can muster.
"Campaigns start earlier and earlier, and not just in Florida," said Stuart Stevens, a Republican political consultant who worked for Crist in 2010 when he ran for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. "Campaigns are covered like sports, with high-intensity channels devoted to this."
The money is pouring into the Florida showdown because the winner will control the nation’s largest swing state heading into the 2016 elections, according to the Herald.
The Republican Governors Association has donated $2.5 million to Scott — more than any other candidate for governor — while the Democratic Governors Association recently gave Crist $500,000.
Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s environmental super PAC NextGen Climate Action, meanwhile, has indicated that it plans to help Crist fund his election fight.
Crist, who has strong name recognition in Florida due to his successful tenure as a Republican governor, has raised more than $10.1 million and spent $1.4 million, the newspaper said.
But he will need a lot more cash to counteract Scott, who plans to spend $100 million to get re-elected. Since taking office in 2011, Scott has raised about $36 million and spent $15 million through various political committees. At least this time the money is not coming out of his own pocket as it did in 2010 when he ran for governor as an outsider.
But Crist’s political strategists think he can beat Scott, despite his campaign treasure trove.
"I called him a long time ago and said, 'You’re the only one who’s capable of not being defeated by $100 million,'" Dan Gelber, a former Miami Beach legislator and a Crist adviser, told the Herald. "He has such a strong identity with voters that he can resist a paid media campaign."
Crist, a former state attorney general, was elected as Florida’s governor in 2007 while a member of the GOP. He seemed headed for an easy re-election as governor in 2010 before he suddenly opted to run for an open U.S. Senate seat instead.
When polls showed conservative Marco Rubio beating him among GOP voters, Crist left the party and became an independent, but still lost. In the last general election, he endorsed President Barack Obama, and in November he threw his hat into the gubernatorial race as a Democrat.
Analysis of the last eight polls show Crist with a lead of .6 to 2 percentage points over Scott, according to the Herald. Although Crist once had a bigger lead, Scott has been chipping away thanks to the campaign’s large wallet.
Crist first has to win the Democratic primary on Aug. 26, which he’s expected to win comfortably over his main rival Nan Rich.
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