Getting black Democrats to the polls is crucial to Charlie Crist's chances of ousting Rick Scott in the governor's race, making this first "Souls to the Polls" Sunday of the Florida early vote a very big deal.
To mark the occasion, Charlie Crist was visiting eight Miami-area churches, while his running mate, Annette Taddeo, was in the Tampa Bay area for three different appearances, beginning at St. John’s Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in East Tampa just before noontime (and don't forget the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, who was also making three statewide appearances today, including one late Sunday afternoon also in East Tampa).
On the first Saturday of early voting, Republicans actually out-voted Democrats, leading Tim Saler, deputy campaign manager for the Rick Scott campaign, to crow in a memo that "Charlie Crist’s base is simply not turning out." Saler notes that at this time in the 2012 election campaign, Republicans trailed in early voting by 40,000 votes, while today it's less than 2,000 votes.
But Taddeo says she thinks it's instructive that the Republicans are comparing the vote totals to 2012, where Democrats traditionally vote in much higher numbers than they do in midterm elections, such as in 2010 when the Tea Party led surge enabled Rick Scott to defeat Alex Sink by just 1.2 percent. "We'll continue to compare it to 2010, which is the number of people who come and vote in gubernatorial elections," she said confidently.
(On Saturday Democratic party strategist and Crist adviser Steve Schale blogged that in overall early voting Democrats had closed the GOP advantage in early voting to 9.1. percent. At that same time in 2010, the Republican advantage was 18.5 percent).
Taddeo was joined by pastor Essie Sims and bishop (and activist) Michelle B. Patty in speaking to this reporter. She said, "In the minorities communities, we know Charlie. Charlie was there for us, Charlie restored (civil & voting) rights, Charlie extended voting hours, Charlie was for education."
The most recent polls show the gubernatorial race to be a dead heat, with just nine days to go. During last week's CNN broadcast debate, Rick Scott took Crist to task several times for coming from a family of wealth, prompting the Democrat to bark back that "You don't know me and you can't tell my story."
"I guess he believes that if he says stuff enough times, people will start to believe it," said Taddeo of Scott's debate strategy to depict Crist as the son of privilege. "And when you have that much money to attack - $65 million - at this point attacking Charlie, you know, he's hoping it works. We're here to tell him our state's not for sale, you can't buy it. We're going to go out and vote and let people know in the country that Florida is turning blue."
Late last week Scott confirmed that he's dipping into his own wallet to fund the last week of the campaign,though he didn't specify how many millions he might spend in the process.
"He's trying to buy the election," the Democratic LG nominee asserted. "He did it last time. He spent $75 million. This time he said he wasn't going to spend any, but lo and behold, here he is, after attacking Charlie for $64 million. We're either tied or ahead, so I understand where he's coming from, but the voters aren't buying that."
Pastor Essie Sims said he's part of a progressive coalition of pastors that have been meeting for months trying to energize their congregants to get out to the polls for this midterm election. "We're energizing people in our community about the importance of getting out and voting and understanding the issues and understanding the two candidates and we're looking for a man of integrity, a man of character...to be in Tallahassee to represent the people. To deal with the issues of the concerns of everyone throughout the state of Florida."