Come November all eyes will be on the election for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat where popular term-limited Gov. Rick Scott squares off against Sen. Bill Nelson.
Florida, the third largest state with 19.9 million people, has become America’s preeminent political bellwether having chosen 26 of the last 38 presidential winners including the deciding vote in 2000. The latest poll in this pivotal swing state shows Scott up by three points with a margin of error of five — a statistical tie.
Nelson, seeking a fourth term, is the only elected Democrat currently holding statewide office. The former astronaut began his political career as a moderate that over time has drifted further to the left and become widely regarded as a reliable partisan with an energized Democratic base.
Scott, on the other hand, is a multi-millionaire and fundraising machine. Last week, the governor raised a record $10.7 million in under three months. Speaking of dollars, jobs and the economy have polled as the most significant issue to Florida voters, which conveniently has been Scott’s trademark since his arrival on the scene as a no-nonsense businessman and political outsider.
Scott was the first big state governor to get behind then-candidate Trump in 2016 and helped him raise a significant amount of money. The duo are walking a highly choreographed tight rope during this campaign, but Scott and Trump’s relationship has already paid dividends for Florida in a number of ways since the New York businessman took office.
For example, Scott convinced Trump and Interior Department Sec. Ryan Zinke that Florida should be excluded from the White House’s plan to expand domestic off shore drilling. Gov. Scott has also been largely credited with getting the president to address two significant issues with the Army Corps of Engineers pertaining to some significant water issues South Florida is facing.
The Hispanic vote cannot be ignored either. One in four Floridians are of Hispanic descent. Cuban Americans, Florida’s largest demographic, have been and are still statistically with the bilingual governor.
The 300,000 Puerto Ricans that have relocated to Florida since Hurricane Maria are currently favoring the Scott as well. Nelson, however, has a significant lead among non-Cuban American Hispanic voters but the coveted undecideds total upwards of 30 percent. Scott, in the meantime, is spending significant campaign dollars courting that third of the electorate as part of a multi-platform bilingual Hispanic outreach marketing campaign.
There is a lot of race left to run but a political hurricane is undoubtedly brewing in the Sunshine State. A race that was not supposed to be competitive is now leaning in the GOP’s favor and both parties are on high alert.
Can we take Florida for granted after 2000? Can we even count on polls after 2016? Welcome to survivor island, Florida edition. The winner will join Marco Rubio up in the D.C. swamp.
[Tampa Bay Times] [Wink News] [Sun Sentinel] [Photo courtesy Sun Sentinel]