Those living on Diet Coke, Red Bull, stale pizza, and the ebb and flow of Florida’s gubernatorial race are being subjected to more twists and turns and ups and downs than a rider on Busch Gardens’ newest roller coaster. Within the last three days, there has been panic for both sides.
On Friday, Florida Republicans not working directly for the Rick Scott campaign found themselves in a frenzy after survey results from a respectable pollster began to circulate. The numbers were horrible for Scott, with one source saying the poll showed him down by four points to Charlie Crist.
Another source who was told about the poll said Scott was hemorrhaging Republican support, pulling under 70 percent of GOP voters. A third source said that 22 percent of self-identified conservatives were melting away from Scott (although it’s difficult to believe these voters would end up supporting Crist).
The results were so bad for Scott that the poll was put in a drawer, not to be seen by the outside world. However, enough insiders were informed about the poll’s findings that word quickly spread among members of the Republican consulting class. And unless they are cashing a check from the Scott campaign or the RPOF, many are already suspect of the out-of-towners running the governor’s re-election effort.
The panic among some GOP lobbyists was so palpable, some wondered, quietly but purposefully, how their clients might be able to back-door a check to Crist through the Democratic Governors Association.
But just as Attila was about to sack Rome, something remarkable happened — or didn’t happen as the case may be.
Despite beautiful weather throughout the state. Despite former President Bill Clinton barnstorming the state for Crist and congressional candidates Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy. Despite all the promises made by Crist acolytes. Despite all of this, there was not a surge in early voting by Florida Democrats, specifically those in South Florida.
According to Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald, in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami Dade, the total number of people who early-voted Saturday was greater than Sunday — the day when black voters were expected to have the first of two “Souls to the Polls” voting events after church.
So now there is panic in Cristworld.
Twist, turn. Up, down. Go ahead and lurch for an airbag.
Democrats can rightly point to the numbers that show that they trimmed the GOP lead in returned ballots to only (!) 138,862. They can also say that the unexpected has happened: The Florida GOP has just a single-digit (7.7 percent) lead in this category.
But the panic has already set in. From here on out, it will be a whirlwind of data and quick poll numbers and lies and half-truths. As veteran Republican lobbyist John “Mac” Stipanovich teased on Twitter, “Gentlemen, start your spin-gines.”
What is the state of the race? Same as it’s always been. Tied. I believe the polling I’ve seen or commissioned shows that Scott is losing enough of his base and swing voters for Crist to be within striking distance. But I also am starting to believe that the most unreliable people in the world may be South Florida Democrats.
As one respected Republican strategist who doesn’t work for Scott but detests Crist shared with me, this race can not be seen through the prisms of 2010 or 2012, as the Crist and Scott camps keep arguing. In other words, we don’t know where this ride ends.
We all are on a roller coaster no one has ever ridden before.
Be sure to keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.
Peter Schorsch is a political consultant and new media publisher based in St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.