Mitch Perry Report 11.6.14: How do Florida Democrats become more competitive in off-year elections?

click to enlarge Charlie Crist marching to the stage at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Pete to give his concession speech Tuesday night. - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
Charlie Crist marching to the stage at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Pete to give his concession speech Tuesday night.

In today's Times, some of Charlie Crist's advisors are attributing their candidate's narrow loss to Rick Scott to the $12.8 million spent by the governor on negative ads in the final week of the campaign.


It has to be incredibly tough to come so close and yet come up just over 1 percent short as Crist did this week, but we all knew it was going to be like this. We just didn't know who the victor was going to be.

Crist ran a very impressive campaign, especially considering his financial disadvantage. His biggest problem was that, well, he had a ton of baggage to carry as he attempted to do something that only a handful of people have done in the history of our republic — become governor of the same state twice, once as a Republican, once as a Democrat. That's pretty damn hard.

But let's look at something.  According to exit polls conducted by Edison Research and reported by the Associated Press, Charlie Crist appealed to blacks, Latinos, moderates and younger voters. Meanwhile, Rick Scott took the lion's share of his vote from just two blocs of voters — whites and senior citizens (and those from rural areas).

Guess who turned out in higher numbers on Election Night?

It was a midterm, which means that while Crist got the majority of those minority and younger voters, they simply didn't come out in the large numbers that they did for Barack Obama in 2012, when the Democratic incumbent's superior ground game blew away not only Mitt Romney's ground forces, but also political observers, who didn't believe the president still had the support that he had in 2008. He didn't, but his organization made up the difference with voters who weren't nearly as enthusiastic as they were back in the halcyon days of hope and change four years before.

But 2014 in Florida was more in line with midterm elections in 2010, 2006 and 2002, all big Republican years.

The big question is: Will Scott and the GOP-led Legislature overreach in 2015, like they did in 2011? GOP pollster Frank Luntz writes in the New York Times today about the so-called Republican "tsunami" and warns his fellow conservatives not to fall into that trap: 

The current narrative, that this election was a rejection of President Obama, misses the mark. So does the idea that it was a mandate for an extreme conservative agenda. According to a survey my firm fielded on election night for the political-advocacy organization Each American Dream, it was more important that a candidate “shake up and change the way Washington operates.”

Rick Scott acted and governed much differently in 2014 than he did in 2011-2013. That's because he realized that if he wanted to be re-elected, he'd have to change. The question for all of us looking forward to next year and beyond in Tallahassee is, how will he govern now?

In other news....

One person who didn't make much of a dent in the gubernatorial election was Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie.

And Democrats who don't want to get too depressed are already touting their chances in 2016. Check out this memo written by Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen.

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