Elections May Not Be Won Purely by Accomplishments – Case in Point, Florida

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As the clock ticks towards the November elections, several Republican governors find themselves in very tight races for re-election. But the closeness of each race results from totally different reasons. Some have to do with objections to their conservative position on taxes and their limited-government policies, but one in particular owes to a major shift in population. Ironically, the same population migration that brought enormous wealth into the state may also bring defeat to an incumbent.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is one of those governors up for re-election in November. Of particular note with his campaign is that his strongest rival is his predecessor, the then-Republican Charlie Crist. Shedding his Republican affiliation for an ill-fated run for U.S. Senate, Crist switched his party affiliation to Independent, and is now running against Scott as a Democrat.

One would think that this lack of political loyalty would put Crist in bad stead with potential voters, but that appears not to be the case at all in several high-profile and politically powerful Florida counties. There is a dynamic at work here that has much to do with the issue of demographics. You see, not only did New York and New Jersey ex-pats bring their good fortunes to the Sunshine State, they also brought along their political ideologies and party loyalties from these two northern states. They are notoriously “blue,” and are where we find the core of Charlie Crist supporters.

Statistically, 55% of Florida’s registered Democrats live in just 7 counties: Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Duval, and Pinellas. The lion’s share of these are located in just three counties (namely Dade, Broward and Palm Beach), which are located in the southeastern portion of the state. According to documented data from IRS records, between the years 1992 through 2012, these three counties alone gained over $4 billion in wealth specifically from New York and New Jersey. Considering the ever-increasing taxes in these two states, which are driving out residents, this trend will only accelerate. From a population standpoint, the state of Florida is actually poised to eclipse New York by the end of 2014.

During his tenure as governor, Scott’s accomplishments are certainly enviable. As one of nine states with no personal income tax, plus low corporate taxes, Florida was primed for growth. According to chiefexecutive.net Best and Worst States for Business, Florida, which currently ranks No. 2, is edging up and even overtaking number-one-ranked Texas thanks to its favorable business environment. Scott points to the corporate relocation of Hertz, expansion of Amazon, Deutsche Bank and Verizon as all adding jobs. As many as 2,000 new jobs are being created in Palm Beach County with the merger and relocation of Office Depot’s corporate offices to Boca Raton. As the governor is quick to point out, “Unlike the previous administration, which lost almost 1 million jobs, we have added almost a half million jobs in three years.” He turned budget shortfalls into surpluses, reduced unemployment to 6.3 percent, and cut taxes 40 times. With this record, you would think this election would be a runaway victory for Scott, but not so.

Governor Scott has a major challenge ahead of him in November. He must convince the 4.5 million voters in the state who have deeply entrenched Democratic roots, to cross party lines on Election Day. He must convince them that all of the good he has done for the state clearly warrants him a second term.

As of today, statewide and national polls show current governor Rick Scott and former governor Charlie Crist in a dead heat. Governor Scott must continue his momentum or risk returning the state to a Democratic chief executive after fifteen years in the Republican column. In the final analysis, it all comes down to money: Which of the two can afford to run the most ads and reach the most voters? In that category at least, Scott is the clear winner.