Analyzing Florida Developments

Freshman Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL-19) announced at a news conference, after pleading guilty to cocaine possession, that he is taking an unspecified leave of absence from the House. He made it clear that he is not resigning, but questions are already being raised about potential primary challenges.

Radel was elected from a field of six Republicans, all who were vying to replace outgoing Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) who relinquished his House seat to make what resulted in an unsuccessful bid for the Senate, losing to incumbent Bill Nelson (D) 55-42 percent. Radel had been a conservative talk radio host prior to his election to the House.

The 19th District is safely Republican (Obama ’12: 39 percent). It borders the Gulf of Mexico, with Cape Coral, Ft. Myers and Naples as its largest cities. The seat contains almost all of Lee County and about half of Collier.

Should Rep. Radel seek re-election, it is likely a serious primary will ensue, especially when remembering that 70 percent of the 2012 Republican primary voters chose another candidate. The field included two state representatives, Gary Aubuchon and Paige Kreegel, and consultant Chauncey Goss, son of former congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss (R-FL-14). Goss has already confirmed that he is considering launching a 2014 challenge to Radel.

In the last Republican primary election, Radel claimed first place with 30 percent of the vote, followed by Goss’ 21 percent, Kreegel had 18 percent, and Aubuchon recorded 15 percent. Two other minor candidates followed far behind. Radel then scored a 62-36 percent win over technology consultant Jim Roach (D) in the general election.

Governor

A new Quinnipiac University poll (Nov. 12-17; 1,646 registered Florida voters) again shows Gov. Rick Scott (R) trailing ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D), but from an improved position. The new data gives Crist a 47-40 percent lead over the incumbent. As you will remember, Crist served as governor from 2007-2011 as a Republican and Independent, leaving the GOP when it became obvious to him that he would lose the party’s senatorial nomination to Marco Rubio.

Both Crist and Scott have similar favorability ratings. The governor has a 42:47 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval index, still upside down but slightly better than in previous polls. His personal favorability is 39:42 percent. Crist’s rating is 41:39 percent positive to negative. The Q-Poll asked the respondents if they believe each man is honest and trustworthy. Again, the results are similar, but Crist does discernibly better. In his case, 40 percent professed agreement with the honest and trustworthy statement, but 42 percent disagreed. Gov. Scott recorded 38:49 percent figures to the same question.

Though the governor still trails, his trends are improving. According to the March Q-Poll, Crist led Scott 50-34 percent; in June, the margin was 47-37 percent; and is now 47-40 percent. Therefore, Scott has gained a net nine points during this time frame. Though an incumbent being in a deficit situation against a challenger is never a favorable scenario for the office holder, the trend is breaking at least breaking in Scott’s direction.

The culmination of polling waves will undoubtedly be of interest to Sen. Bill Nelson, who continues to drop hints that he is at least considering challenging Crist in the Democratic primary. The Q-Poll did not test the senator, but certainly he would have to be favored in a head-to-head contest with the party-switching Crist. As we know, the first primary campaign in the new party is always that individual’s most difficult election.

The new data continues to point to this gubernatorial campaign as being one of the nation’s top 2014 political contests.

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