If the rest of Florida sounded like the crowds huddled at the state Republican Party quarterly business meeting, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum wouldn’t be facing a potential primary defeat to a health-care millionaire waging his first race for public office.
Around the Hyatt Tampa Bay, signs adorned the halls that read “Bush would vote for Bill McCollum.” Longtime political allies spoke well of the man from Longwood who spent two decades in Congress, who helped lead the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and as Florida attorney general, launched a 20-state legal challenge to the federal health-care reform Congress passed.
But every day seems to deliver more evidence that Naples GOP newcomer Rick Scott has cemented himself as the front-runner among politician-weary voters. The latest proof: A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll last week found Scott with a 35 percent-to-30 percent edge over McCollum, thanks to the $15 million campaign-ad splurge Scott personally bankrolled.
McCollum’s campaign is calculating that once voters learn his background and decades-long record in office closer to the Aug. 24 primary, the tide will shift back his way.
“They don’t want to see somebody go up to Tallahassee who has to have on-the-job training, who’s a rookie,” McCollum said Saturday after addressing the state party’s board.
But political experts say McCollum’s track record as a congressional insider is precisely the kind of experience disgusting voters this election season.
“In this climate, it’s more of a liability to be seen as in the back pocket of special interests,” said University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith, “as opposed to being a self-made wealthy candidate claiming he is not bought off by special interests.” Continue reading here.