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Look for a wild tangle as Dems challenge Scott in 2014 | Peter Schorsch

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Look for a wild tangle as Dems challenge Scott in 2014 | Peter Schorsch

Look for a wild tangle as Dems challenge Scott in 2014
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 — Peter Schorsch

Before all the votes cast in Florida for the presidential election had even been fully mishandled, political consultants began looking toward the 2014 gubernatorial race.

There has not been this level of post-election intensity since 1994, when Jeb Bush lost his first bid for the Governor's mansion. Governor Lawton Chiles had barely finished his acceptance speech when Bush's supporters were ramping up his '98 campaign.

The headlong rush into the next off-year race is making Jeb's post-1994 efforts look sedentary by comparison.

Gov. Rick Scott has wasted no time positioning himself for re-election, despite his historically low approval ratings. The Scott-aligned "Let's Get to Work" political committee has raised $4.2 million to buttress Scott's next campaign.

The Republican Party of Florida has been hard at work attempting to discredit the prospective opponent Scott is both eager and fearful to run against: former Republican Governor turned Independent and Barack Obama cheerleader Charlie Crist. And no one save the President himself benefited more by Obama’s winning Florida than Crist.

Crist entered this election cycle a man without a party.  When he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, he was hardly welcomed by Florida's stubborn donkeys. Remember party chair Rod Smith's line about Crist’s being welcomed to join the congregation, but that didn't mean the Democrats were gonna make him their preacher.

But, then, what a difference a winning election makes.

Crist barnstormed the state for Obama, becoming the President's most effective surrogate on the campaign trail.  It was Governor Sunshine who lit up the crowds before introducing Obama. It was Crist who was the sought-after presidential spokesman for appearances on “Morning Joe: and “Hardball.” It was Crist and his wife Carole who were in Chicago on Election Night to celebrate with the Obama family.

All the while, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink was nowhere to be found. In fact, there is no more telling indication of how little use the Obama campaign had for Sink than her absence from Obama's final rally in her hometown of Tampa.

So after 2012, the score going into 2014 is Crist 1, Sink 0.

Looking forward, it's easy to understand why so many in the national Democratic establishment do not want Sink to run for Governor in 2014. Their opposition can be summed up in one word: Hillary.

In 2016, the state of Florida will be as important as ever in deciding the presidential race. Despite her current reluctance, Hillary Clinton will be on the ballot then. And her husband, the best retail politician in America, knows better than anyone that if Rick Scott is re-elected in 2014, he will do everything in his power to swing the state away from Hillary.

The Big Dog also knows that Crist is the Democrats' best shot to knock off Scott and, therefore, help Hillary -- that's why Clinton will campaign for Crist, just as Obama will.

It may not show up in any newspaper report, but don't be surprised if Obama and Clinton's people attempt to dissuade Sink (and her donors) from even entering the Democratic primary.

Eager to see Sink run in 2014, however, is the Florida GOP. Her running will make Crist spend the money John Morgan raises for him holding off Sink.  Scott and Co. will be waiting for him on the other side of the primary with nine figures worth of negative attacks.

Sink's candidacy could also be a conduit through which the Republicans could zap Crist. Presumably, Sink will have her own political committee similar to Scott's "Let's Get to Work" organization by which she can accept the hefty campaign checks not bound by silly $500 and $1,000 limits. Why wouldn't the Republicans park a few million dollars in Sink's committee for her allies to spend attacking Crist? Is Sink going to turn down a million dollars just because it comes from a big Republican donor? Of course not, especially if she is behind in the polls.

These are the kind of questions being asked, less than a month since the 2012 election ended.

It almost makes one feel sorry for the year 2013, because everyone is so eager for 2014 to hurry up and get here.

Peter Schorsch, of SaintPetersBlog.com, publishes and edits the Florida political blog Sunburn. Readers can contact Schorsch at [email protected] .

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