Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Running With Nothing

Rick Scott is one of the more unpopular political figures in the country, but he’ll probably get re-elected.

When Rick Scott won a bruising battle for Florida’s governorship three years ago, he inherited an economy in disarray. He ostracized allies with his stubborn streak, emboldened foes through his slash-and-burn budgeting and was dubbed by pollsters “America’s least popular governor.”

It’s still a political eternity until the Republican former health-care CEO stands before voters again. But the crosswinds have shifted in ways that make his re-election in 2014 much less of a long shot than Tallahassee prognosticators once expected.

With former Gov. Charlie Crist planning to jump into the governor’s race this fall, national liberal groups and allies of President Obama — eager to build on Obama’s two statewide victories — are expected to pour massive resources into the former GOP star’s coffers.

But Democrats are stuck in a fundraising holding pattern while they wait, as other potential entrants such as former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink sit on the sidelines.

“It’s a problem. Time’s a-wasting,” said Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010 and says she’ll decide on a rematch “soon.”

“By this time four years ago, I probably had $2 [million] or $3 million already.”

Crist, meanwhile, isn’t hurrying his decision. “A decision needs to be made before the end of the year,” he said. “Everybody has their own timeline, and we should all respect that. It’s a very personal decision.”

Meanwhile, there are growing signs that Scott — an unknown in Florida until his $100 million campaign drowned out primary- and general-election challengers in 2010 — will be a formidable contender next year.

It isn’t that Mr. Scott is suddenly more popular among the average voter in Florida.  If the best thing that the Florida Democrats have to offer is a recycled Republican governor who ran an independent campaign for the Senate when it was clear that he couldn’t win with his own party — the word you’re looking for is “opportunist” — then we have a problem and Rick Scott gets re-elected by default.

Steve M runs the list of other Tea Party governors who are likely to win re-election despite their radical agendas, noting that they got elected, did their Tea Party bidding early on, counted on the short-term memory of the electorate, and now won’t have to pay for it.

Scott Walker seems likely to win reelection in Wisconsin unless Russ Feingold is his opponent, in which case the race is a toss-up. John Kasich is favored to win reelection in Ohio. Rick Snyder has been struggling in Michigan, but his numbers went up around the time Detroit went bankrupt, and he’s beating his most likely Democratic rival in one poll. Hell, even the nutjob in Maine, Paul Le Page, is running more or less even with his nearest rival in a three-way race. Of this crowd, only Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett seems to be doomed for 2014.

I bring this up because the teabag formula — go radical early in your term, make big changes before opponents know what hit them — is clearly the template for what a Republican president with a Republican Congress would do in 2017. And now we see that it’s not political suicide.

Yeah, recalling the governor is so 2011.

Perhaps that’s true, but one crucial element is that there isn’t an organized — meaning well-financed — opposition on the state and national level other than the hand-wringers on MSNBC.  Who is going to run against John Kasich in Ohio?  Who’s running in Michigan?  Maine?

You can’t beat someone with nothing.