Analyzing why Alex Sink came up 61,966 votes of being the next Governor of Florida

It's certainly something to chew on, but really, a lot of people found it distasteful enough that she made sure to avoid him when he campaigned in South Florida  (other vulnerable Democrats around the country did the same).  What could she have done, shot a bullet through a copy of the health care bill in an ad, a la Joe Manchin with cap-and-trade in West Virginia?  It would have been completely inauthentic, and she obviously struggled in trying not to alienate black voters, many of whom had never heard of her before this year's campaign, and didn't have much of a history with her.  Sink infamously blew off both an NAACP forum and then a prominent black broadcaster in Miami just weeks before the election. To say she should have done more to distance herself from Obama sounds good in retrospect.  The fact is, Sink was a centrist to conservative pol who had very little in common with some of the president's biggest pieces of legislative achievement.  The fact that voters apparently were clueless enough to be influenced by Rick Scott's ads constantly comparing her with Obama was something that happened even on the County Commission levels, for god sakes!  (Perhaps Bob Hackworth is really angry at the White House as well?).


Did Sink have issues with the health care bill? Well, by the summer of 2010 the polls in Florida showed that so did the majority of Floridians.  But in 2009, when the debate about a public health option was prominent in the news for months, Sink infamously froze in front of a Miami Herald flipcam when quizzed about it.  What was her opinion on it?  It's fine and dandy after the election to say it was a loser and it saddled her down, but if she felt that way during the campaign, maybe she should have said something more definitively.  The one thing that tape showed was that she wasn't prepared to answer that question that day.  Did she not have an opinion, or was she trying to calculate what she thought people wanted to hear?


To say that Alex Sink wasn't the best campaigner is an understatement.  She rarely brought audiences to her feet during her stump speeches.  The Times' Smith says that running mate Rod Smith was under=utilized, and that's probably right.  Smith showed in the 2006 Democratic primary against Jim Davis that he can turn a crowd on, as he did in a brief appearance in Ybor City before Hillsborough Democratic insiders five days before the election.


I think it's a bum rap to say that Sink should have done more to call out Rick Scott as part of the establishment.  The Florida Democratic Party's Campaign For Accountability, the coordinated statewide campaign, was established to educate Democratic voters about Alex Sink and inform them that Republicans had dominated Tallahassee for 12 years.  Sink said as much in the debates and on the trail.  Could she have done more? Sure.  But again, is it out of bounds to question the acumen of some Florida voters?  Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi live in Washington.  Ray Sansom, Jim Greer and others were involved in scandal, and the state GOP has dominated the lives of Floridians over the past decade.  How much education do people need to know the difference? One point that we're completely in agreement with Adam Smith about is Alex Sink accepting public financing.  If you'll recall, I believe it was at the last debate at USF where Sink won the praises of Rick Scott for not accepting public money.  So she'll always have that.


"I faced headwinds from Washington that I liken to tsunami and was going up against a guy who had unlimited resources," Sink said.  "I could have overcome either one but not both." Well, how much sympathy are we supposed to have?  Rick Scott was able to handle the slings and arrows of reporters asking him constantly about his business record at Columbia/HCA and Solantic (mostly by not answering).  What was Sink concerned about? Bad publicity, to be seen taking legal taxpayer money allotted for her and other candidates.  So Scott would have complained about it? So what?


And though certainly meaning little overall in terms of the trajectory of the race (such as the fact that she won the Tampa Bay area), Alex Sink, looking to presumably win over every potential voter, declined to speak with Creative Loafing for a formal interview.  Make of that what you will.

There have been recriminations galore in the days since Alex Sink fell just 1.16% short of beating Rick Scott in Tuesday's Florida gubernatorial election.

On Saturday we were treated to Sink's own criticism of the White House (getting in line with the hundreds of other Democrats across the country who lost last week who blamed in part their losses to Barack Obama) in Politico, where the soon to be ex-Chief Financial Officer of Florida whined:

"They got a huge wake-up call two days ago, but unfortunately they took a lot of Democrats down with them,” said Sink of the White House.

She added: “They just need to be better listeners and be better at reaching out to people who are on the ground to hear about the realities of their policies as well as politics.”

And later, Sink says:

"I think they were tone-deaf,” she said. “They weren't interested in hearing my opinion on what was happening on the ground with the oil spill. And they never acknowledged that they had problems with the acceptance of health care reform.”

First of all, is anyone arguing that the reason the Democrats went down last Tuesday was because of the federal government's response to the BP oil spill?  Surely, Sink speaks from experience of her frustration (along with Bill McCollum, George LeMieux, Bill Nelson and countless others) of how the federal bureaucracy was at its worse this spring and summer as the oil continued to gush, but how that had anything to do with anything on the ground in September and October is a pure reach.

But being called "an Obama liberal" did hurt Sink unquestionably and was obviously effective, even though it had little to do with reality.  Adam Smith in Saturday's St. Pete Times in his postmortem writes that one thing Sink should have done was "more overtly distance herself from President Barack Obama."  He writes that yes, it would have hurt her with the base (all Democrats had to work this year to try to insure the base came out in numbers, and ultimately it didn't), but that it would have turned independents for her.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]