By Matt Towery –
Contests for governor of Florida have recently gone from being competitive tussles between in-state partisans to no-holds-barred death matches with big national bucks flowing and network reporters presiding over televised debates. This year’s battle between incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican turned Democrat challenger Charlie Crist has become the over-the-top crowned jewel of everything bad about modern day “national” politics.
The real genesis of this “nationalization” of Florida politics can be found in the 2000 presidential electoral deadlock that held the nation spellbound for months. Many Americans who are otherwise apolitical still refer to “hanging chads” as if they were old grizzled political pundits.
Nothing was ever quite the same after that epic battle for Florida’s electoral votes. National media reported on Jeb Bush’s reelection race for governor in 2002 against a hapless and weak Democratic nominee as if it were the Kennedy-Nixon contest of 1960. Floridians became used to big national political media figures participating in their statewide debates.
The large but oft ignored state that produced the likes of “Walkin’ Lawton” Chiles and slogans like “Hey Buddy (MacKay), you’re liberal” graduated from just normal intrastate politics to the bigtime of national nastiness.
And nothing can compare to this high dollar, high octane and super vicious race between Scott and Crist.
What troubles many who have followed Florida politics for years is the unspoken belief that neither of these two candidates seems to have anywhere close to meaningful and altruistic reasons for seeking another term as governor.
For better or worse there is little doubt to most that if the dictionary had a definition of “Professional Politician,” former Gov. Crist’s picture would be right by its side.
Some believe Crist sees himself as the character “Mr. Cellophane” in the hit Broadway musical turned movie “Chicago.” He seemingly thinks that he can glide in and out of rooms, meetings, debates or even various political parties without anyone taking notice of him. Sort of a Caspar the Ghost with a tan.
Scott — with his long neck, gleaming head and wide and sometimes bulging eyes — seems a character straight out of central casting as well. Sort of a mix between a leaner version of the animated commercial character “Mr. Clean” and the late-comedian Rodney Dangerfield who always claimed to get “no respect.”
Both are harmless characters in a very hurtful and vicious contest.
Some believe Crist wants the job because he knows no other profession than politics and, as most insiders also know, he loves to be loved.
Scott appears to some as having made so much money so early in life that he chose a new “hobby,” that of being governor of Florida.
Florida’s position of governor, while powerful, doesn’t wield anywhere near the omnipotent attributes of the same position in some other states. For example, Florida governors have to deal with a voting cabinet which could become a real problem if its makeup were to be split between Republicans and Democrats.
Plenty of voters are wondering why these two would spend megabucks and do everything but mud wrestle just to enjoy four more years in Tallahassee. Their vicious ads and personal attacks during debates have made both men appear desperate for power and oblivious to the public’s disdain for their tactics or for politicians in general.
While both men are nice people when away from the political limelight, both are just too overwhelmed — indeed, consumed — by politics for their own good. Indeed, they reek of it.
Crist takes many of his cues from a collection of trial lawyers who have the political acumen of rank amateurs. Scott follows the lead of the usual GOP suspects. The type that might advise the boneheaded choice of protesting some silly electrical fan behind an opponent’s debate podium by keeping their candidate off the stage while others waited.
The real winner in this national debacle may be Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. While he won’t be close, don’t be shocked if he doesn’t exceed expectations. After all, Scott and Crist have lowered those expectations substantially.
Matt Towery is author of the book “Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency.” He has served as an elected official, has advised major national campaigns and heads a non-partisan polling and media company. He is also publisher of the Washington-based Southern Political Report, the nation’s oldest active political newsletter. Follow him on Twitter: @matttowery. To find out more about Matt Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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