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Crist’s Spark Could Help heat up the Democrats | Rick Outzen

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Crist’s Spark Could Help heat up the Democrats | Rick Outzen

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Crist’s Spark Could Help heat up the Democrats
Thursday, January 24, 2013 — Rick Outzen

Charlie Crist will likely be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer to run against Republican Governor Rick Scott in 2014.

Crist was Florida’s 44th governor and a lifelong Republican before he, dropped his party affiliation in 2010 and then, last month, became a Democrat. However, the latest poll by Public Policy Polling has him far ahead of faithful Democrat Alex Sink, who served as the state’s Chief Financial Officer during Crist’s tenure and narrowly lost to Scott in 2010.

According to Public Policy Polling, Democrats have embraced Crist. His favorability rating with them is 70 percent. When they were asked this month for whom they would vote in the 2014 Democratic primary, 52 percent preferred Crist compared to 18 percent for Sink.


The numbers give evidence to the disarray of the Florida Democratic Party. The acceptance of Crist points to the lack of viable candidates in the party. The Democrats simply don’t have anyone in the wings who appeals to the masses outside of South Florida.

Part of the problem is the Florida Democrats have chosen weak candidates over the past 14 years. Traditionally, the party has nominated those who have paid their dues—Congressman Jim Smith in 2006, attorney Bill McBride in 2002 and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay in 1998.

Campaign dollars follow winners. With so few victories in statewide races, big contributors have shied away from the party.

The only Democrat to win a statewide seat since 2006 has been incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. All four Florida Cabinet positions are held by Republicans — Gov. Rick Scott, CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.  Other than Scott, none are in fear of a Democratic challenger next year.

When you can’t raise money, then you have to have a strong, dynamic grassroots effort. Unfortunately, Florida Democrats strike out there in most counties north of Interstate 4.

Barack Obama inspired and motivated college students and independents in 2008 and 2012 to vote for him. Florida Democrats have no such charismatic leaders. Smith and Sink weren’t balls of fire on the campaign trail. Nice people, but not inspirational.

So then walks in Charlie Crist. The only candidate for the Democrats that can raise money and who works a room of supporters better than anyone not named Bill Clinton. He’s not a deep thinker or particularly bold, but he might be the one to break the GOP winning streak.

However, he isn’t going to rescue the Florida Democratic Party. His victory will only be a momentary jolt until other viable candidates are developed. 

Rick Outzen is the publisher/editor of Pensacola's Independent News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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