Chuck Todd: Florida’s governor’s race is the new normal — very negative, very expensive and a turnoff

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The Capital Tiger Bay Club Thursday night celebrated its 43rd anniversary by asking NBC’s Chuck Todd for help with a mid-life and midterm election crisis. The 43-year-old Meet the Press moderator observed that the state’s relentlessly negative governor’s race is representative of where the nation’s politics is as a whole.

“Whether it’s Kansas, Iowa or Florida, it’s the same,” said Todd. “Florida’s governor (race) is emblematic of every competitive race in the country this year. It’s very negative, very expensive and it’s turning off voters.”

Todd said polls indicate the country is in its longest sustained period of pessimism – a decade that most poll respondents say has the country going in the wrong direction.

Todd said he thinks the country is in what he called a funk because for the past eight years voters have been told to vote for change — in 2008 when Democrats rode a wave to victory and in 2010 when Republicans did. However, there’s a general sense that the system is broken and nothing is going to change. After record turnouts in 2008 and 20010, it appears voters are staying away in 2014.

Todd has a ready response when people tell him they hate politics.

“I say you don’t hate politics, I say you hate the politicians who are refusing to practice the art of politics,” Todd said, drawing applause from the 540 people in attendance. “We practice the art of politics every day when we try to deal with a neighbor who won’t clean up the dog poop in your front yard. Do we run a negative ad against that person? No, you try to have a conversation.”

Todd blames a seemingly broken political system on a  lack of good candidates. In an hour-long presentation, he identified various factors he thinks are preventing people who are more competent at the “art of politics” from becoming involved.

Circumstances have left the base of both major parties in control and they have cleaned out the center, he said. Todd speculated that this has occurred because of the amount of money being spent on campaigns.

In four competitive U.S. Senate races Todd identified, he said outside groups will spend more money on the race than the candidates. So, Super PACs and not the candidates are deciding campaign issues. This and a media obsessed with every speck of dirt in a candidate’s past has Todd wondering why any successful professional or competent person would begin a political career.

Todd predicted that the key to control of the U.S. Senate rests with races in Kansas, North Carolina, Alaska and Kansas. If one of the parties wins three of the four, it will control the chamber. If there is a split, then the runoff in the Louisiana race will decide control. If that were to happen, then Todd gives the edge to the GOP because the race will become nationalize and not decided by local issues.

Todd expects if the GOP does not capture the Senate, there will be major “bloodletting within the party.” He said the Tea Party and more conservative elements stood down during the primary and gave the establishment every candidate it wanted.

He said the outcome for control of the Senate will be a factor in who controls the party and who the GOP nominates for president in 2016. And although he thinks the media wants  a Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton matchup, Todd doesn’t think it will happen.

“Jeb Bush is a media creation at this point,” said Todd. “The base will never accept him. My gut is he will not run. I feel the field is extremely wide open.”