Come next Tuesday (or maybe early Wednesday morning), we will know who is left standing in Florida’s governor’s race. We will know whether the three incumbent members of the Cabinet have been re-elected. We’ll know whether it’s legal to smoke medical marijuana.
Come Election Day, we’ll know a lot more than we do right now. That’s when the real fun begins. Because if there’s one thing better than congratulating the winners, it’s blaming those responsible for the losing.
Depending on the outcome of these races, we’ll know who to blame for Rick Scott being turned out of office or Charlie Crist being unable to unseat the most unpopular governor in Florida’s modern history. We’ll know who to blame for Amendment 2 receiving the support of sixty percent of the electorate or for the initiative going up in smoke.
Come the day after the elections, there will be a lot of blame to go around.
Here’s an early assessment of who to blame if certain campaigns end up losing — other than the candidates themselves because that would be too easy.
If Rick Scott loses, blame his mercenary staff — Melissa Sellers, Curt Anderson, Tim Saler, among others — who had not before managed a statewide campaign in Florida. First of all, Scott’s paid media has been unimpressive (quick, name one memorable, positive TV ad released by Scott or his allies), especially considering the budget its creators had to work with. Second, Scott’s campaign, despite raising tens of millions of dollars from special interests, basically ran out of money, forcing Scott to break his pledge not to self-finance his campaign. Third, Scott was ill-prepared for the final two televised debates, which led to performances so bad that Crist regained the lead in most public polling. Fourth, Scott’s staff was pointedly unwilling to accept most of the help offered to it by other Florida Republican consultants.
Scott, as odd as he is in some public appearances, is the most on-message candidate in state politics. He NEVER deviates from his talking points. He was also willing to move to the center on a half a dozen or more policy positions. And he wrote, reportedly, a $25 million check to boost his campaign in the final weeks. In other words, he did all he could to win re-election.
Also culpable for a Scott loss: Billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer, who contributed north of $15 million towards defeating Scott; Florida media, especially some local TV stations, which has hammered Scott since the primary.
If Charlie Crist loses, blame South Florida Democratic voters, which appear to be as unreliable as the weather. The math is basic. There are many, many more Democrats in Florida than there are Republicans. Yet the GOP consistently wins in midterm elections because Democrats fail to vote. Until this past week, it looked like Democrats were sitting on their hands again (just as Pinellas Democrats did earlier this year in the special election in Congressional District 13). Crist has built much of his campaign strategy around turning out voters in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. But most of these voters seem to be busy programming their DVRs or doing anything other than completing a ballot.
Also responsible for a Scott loss: The staff at the Republican Party of Florida, which has for more than two years woke up each day with one goal: Defeat Crist; Jim Greer, Scott Rothstein, and the so many other shady, colorful characters from Crist’s past who have been featured in one attack ad after another.
If Jeff Atwater or Adam Putnam lose, blame the Almighty because it would literally take an act of God for either of these two to wake up next Wednesday and be out of a job.
If Pam Bondi loses, which should have been as unlikely as Atwater or Putnam losing but isn’t because she’s facing a real opponent in George Sheldon, blame Rick Scott, who threw Bondi under the bus, then backed it up and ran over her again during the final televised debate when he all but admitted he rescheduled an execution to accommodate a fundraiser for Bondi. It’s improbable Bondi loses her re-election bid, but this controversy has dogged her the entire way.
If Amendment 2 does not pass, which most polls indicate it won’t, blame John Morgan. Yes, Morgan led the charge to get the medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, but, as the self-appointed face of the campaign, he’s done as much to turn off voters — especially the moderate female voters necessary to win 60 percent — as he has to win over converts. The trajectory of this campaign changed as soon as Morgan’s drunken, NSFW post-debate rant went viral. But it wasn’t just that YouTube video which lost voters. Morgan also hurt his cause by making Amendment 2 too much about him. Confusing recognition with popularity, Morgan has barnstormed the state debating sheriffs and other opponents of Amendment 2. Undoubtedly, Morgan, with his drawl and quick wit, thinks he won those debates, when in all actuality he lost the moment he showed up and provided such a stark contrast to undecided voters. Worst of all, there has been too much talk in the media and by Morgan himself about how this campaign has financially benefitted his law firm. That’s just gross.
Of course, Morgan, Scott’s staff and/or South Florida Democrats, can still be heroes next Tuesday. If their campaigns win, they will be sharing in the spoils rather than the blame.
In Florida politics, the line dividing hero and zero is a thin one.