The 2014 Florida Gubernatorial race has been billed by national pundits as one of the major races to watch.
Since formally announcing his plans to run as a Democrat to get his old job back, former Governor Charlie Crist has been on the fundraising trail. During a recent trip to Tallahassee for a fundraiser, Crist took a moment to blast the policies of Governor Rick Scott:
"I signed an executive order so voters could vote early and often in more places. I think that democracy is something we ought to respect and care about. Let’s talk about education: I wouldn’t cut it $1.3 billion my first year as Governor, and follow it up with $300 million slashed to higher education the second year.”
After a disastrous first year which saw deep cuts to education prove highly unpopular, Scott reversed course: putting money back into K-12 funding. Last year the Legislature put back the higher education dollars it cut the previous year as well. Scott is now promising a $500 million tax rollback, and has been traveling the state and highlighting local businesses as Florida’s decreasing unemployment rate.
“Over 200,000 private sector jobs in the past 23 months. I want to thank every Floridians for all your effort to get our economy growing again. Making sure people can get a job in our great state," Scott said in a holiday video posted on youtube.
According to the latest poll from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling Institute, Scott’s message of economic growth may be working.
“When we did a poll in September we found that Charlie Crist was well ahead of Governor Rick Scott. He had a 12-point advantage. Now Crist’s lead is down to two points, said Public Policy Polling Institute Director Tim Jensen. He believes he rapid closing of the gap is due to Republicans consolidating around Scott. Still he remains unpopular among voters. But Charlie Crist’s popularity has also fallen since he officially entered the race, bringing the two front-runners closer together in the Public Policy Poll.
“It’s so early in the game, you shouldn’t put any stock in any of the numbers you see this far ahead," says University of Florida political scientist Stephen Craig. He believes poll numbers will continue to jump around in the run-up to November, and that Crist’s drop in popularity is more closely tied to how people feel about national issues:
“Voters just aren’t locked into this and won’t be for many more months. And so, there’s probably going to be a good bit more volatility going forward until we get closer to the election," he said. "The fact Crist has lost ground is tied to the difficulties the President in particular and the Democrats are having these days.”
And he says a lot can change in 10 months.