As former Republican Charlie Crist returns to the campaign trail Monday — as a Democrat — to get back his old job as Florida governor, his fundraising skills could make the race the most expensive in state history.
Crist’s announcement, notes Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, opens the floodgates of political spending by pollsters, consultants, and advertising from both parties.
Rick Scott, Florida’s current governor, holds the record by spending $73 million of his own money in 2010.
“It’s going to be a bonanza,” Riviera Beach printer Jay Goldfarb told BusinessWeek, “I expect this to continue, very hot and heavy, right down to the wire.”
Goldfarb took in more than $18,000 in his Budget Printing Center, creating Scott’s fundraising invitations.
Florida has become the biggest swing state in the U.S., as deep-pocketed interest descend on the Sunshine State laying a foundation for what is expected to be a hard-fought contest.
“Florida is a microcosm of the nation, and people look at Florida because we have the evolving demographics, and we have the ability to swing the 2016 presidential campaign,” Kevin Cate, a Democratic consultant advising Crist, said to Olorunnipa.
Cate was a key Florida representative for the 2008 campaign of President Barack Obama.
In a Florida Democratic Party conference in October, Crist warned that Scott would spend up to $100 million on his re-election campaign. He also touted his own fundraising ties with Obama and Bill Clinton.
In a June poll Quinnipiac University survey, Crist leads Scott 47 to 37 percent, with many political strategists expecting huge campaign spending. It was a study of 1,176 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 points.
The state Democratic Party has typically lagged behind Republicans in fundraising, but whoever the nominee is, they will have the support of national groups like the Democratic Governors Association.
Scott — who has one of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in America — is perceived as vulnerable. In 2010, Scott narrowly won the Florida governor’s race by less than 1 percentage point against Democrat Alex Sink. She opted to go for Congress in 2014, rather than a rematch with Scott.
Speaking to Crist’s popularity, the attorney is a member of the Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, which has helped him develop a name recognition valued at “tens of millions of dollars,” Olorunnipa writes.
For example, billboards all over Central Florida have Crist’s face with the populist Morgan & Morgan slogan, something that could very well be his campaign theme — “For the people.”