Earlier this year a spate of political rumors abounded that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D), fresh from his 2012 re-election to a third term, was looking at a 2014 gubernatorial run. Repeatedly denied by Nelson spokespeople at the time but never completely ruled out, more such stories are again surfacing. Now it appears that the senator’s political staffers are calling state Democratic political leaders to seek advice about their boss running for governor.
The Florida gubernatorial race should be one of the most competitive in the country. Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) continues to poll badly with job approval ratings in upside down territory. As we all know, Florida performs as the nation’s quintessential swing entity, so all statewide contests have the potential of becoming very close.
Two weeks ago, former Gov. Charlie Crist declared his candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Crist was elected state chief executive in 2006 as a Republican. He then filed as a candidate for the 2010 GOP senatorial nomination, but when it became apparent that he would lose the primary to former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, he left the party and ran as an Independent. Both he and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek, then a congressman, lost a landslide general election to Rubio.
So far, Crist is polling ahead of Gov. Scott in early ballot testing from between four to 12 points. But, the former governor has yet to be seriously attacked, though Scott did launch a television attack ad against him on the day Crist announced. The governor ended his tenure in office and as a Senate candidate on the defensive and being attacked by both people in both parties. So, it is feasible that his early favorable polling numbers could quickly dissipate when voters are reminded of his negatives.
It has been proven that a party-switcher’s most difficult election is the first primary in the new party. Should Sen. Nelson challenge Crist, the former governor’s difficulty factor in becoming the Democratic nominee would increase exponentially. Obviously, a Nelson entry would cast a whole new light on the entire race and these developments bear watching.