News Section: Politics
Wyllie and Rich Struggle for Media Attention in Governor Race
BRADENTON – Not many people seem to be aware that Charlie Crist has an August primary against a credible opponent before he is nominated on the Democratic ticket in November's gubernatorial race. Even fewer voters seem to be aware that a popular Libertarian radio host will also be on the ballot, though he's polling at nearly 10 percent. Crist and incumbent governor Rick Scott might not be running very exciting campaigns, however, they've still managed to suck all of the proverbial air out of the press room.
When examined in a vacuum, Nan Rich is actually a fairly strong candidate. The former state lawmaker who represented Broward County in the Florida Legislature from 2000-2012 is articulate, accomplished, passionate and knows her issues. Yet without statewide name recognition, she was seen by Democratic rainmakers as having no chance of defeating the incumbent Republican and his massive campaign war chest.
Even though Rich announced early and was by far the most credible candidate even dipping their toes in the water at the time, most donors and party bosses held out to see whether good old Chain Gang Charlie would jump in. At the last minute, he did, and Rich has pretty much been treated like the skunk at the garden party ever since.
She's struggled to raise money, compiling only a little more than $420,000 as of the last filing deadline, and while she initially polled well head to head against Scott, she trailed him 41-34 head to head in Quinnipiac's most recent Florida poll – her worst performance since they began including her. Eighty-three percent of voters said they didn't know that much about who she was, which, with only a month until the election, pretty much sounds the death rattle.
Rich's best chance to hurt Crist would have been in a debate, and she's been chomping at the bit to get him into one. As a former Republican governor, Crist obviously has a lot of complicated legislation and appointments that when compiled together, would not do much to bolster his liberal bona fides.
Not surprisingly, Crist has not accepted any of the invitations to debate Rich and why would he? With Rich polling so far behind, he has no reason to do anything that might dampen Democratic enthusiasm for him, especially when you consider how poorly the party tends to turn out at midterms.
Scott actually has two opponents who qualified to face him on the August primary ballot as well, but neither are seen as having chances as good as even the astronomical odds faced by Rich. Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, a longtime Florida Republican and founder of the state's Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce has raised only $1,300 and is unlikely to put even a dent in Scott's support.
Then there's the truly mystifying campaign of Yinka Abosede Adeshina, a completely unknown candidate with no campaign infrastructure, who somehow managed to raise over $180,000 – much of which is from non-existent donor addresses. To further complicate Adeshina's run, she's already filed to run as a Democrat in the 2016 Presidential election (she filed to run for President as a Republican in 2012).
Adrian Wyllie, the unopposed Libertarian Party candidate who's best known for his Tampa-based AM radio program, has raised only a tenth as much as Rich, but he has no primary challenge, which means that no matter what, he'll be on the ballot come November.
The uptick in registered voters who identify themselves as either independent or Libertarian has given him a boost in polls. Despite just 8 percent of polled voters knowing much about who he is, he is still managing to receive about 9 percent of their support. Apparently, he's the "anybody but those two" vote.
While conventional wisdom has usually said that the Republican candidate is hurt most when a Libertarian enters a three-person race, polling actually shows Crist losing more support than Scott when Wyllie is in a poll, mostly because of independent voters.
In fact, with Scott and Crist essentially tied with nearly every poll falling within the margin of error, Wyllie's appearance could end up deciding the race. So while Wyllie has seemingly no chance of winning the governor's mansion, he could end up determining who does.
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