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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How to buy a statewide election in Fla

From today's print Buzz column: Not only do we have the remarkable and unpredictable U.S. Senate race where our Republican governor is running without party affiliation — and might pull it off — but we have two multimillionaires shaking things up: Democratic investor Jeff Greene of Miami campaigning for the Senate and Republican health care executive Rick Scott running for governor. Florida this year is a petri dish for examining whether the super-rich can win statewide elections. A Mason-Dixon poll released Saturday showed the virtually unknown Scott is within 14 points of Bill McCollum for governor — 38 percent to 24 percent, with 7 percent for Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery after spending nearly $5 million on TV and radio ads over one month.

Mega-rich self-funding statewide candidates are fairly new to Florida (Doug Gallagher spent more than $6 million for the Senate in 2004 and finished a distant third), but standard fare in California for years. So we asked a couple of political pros in California for their thoughts:

 "A self-funding candidate has the advantage of being able to communicate their message to voters, but they still must have a compelling message," said Republican consultant Ron Stutzman "Usually central to self-funding candidates is their biography and what it says about them."

Greene's biography includes making hundreds of millions by betting against the housing market, essentially profiting from Florida's misery. Scott's health care company paid $1.7 billion in fines for overbilling government.

"Campaign experience matters, but a lot of wealthy candidates don't have the patience or ego to earn their stripes," said GOP consultant Ray McNally of Sacramento. "They start at the top. And they can be lousy candidates because they often have this notion that, since they made millions in business, they know better than anyone else — so they tend to second-guess their campaign team. But unlike seasoned campaign veterans, rich novices tend to make fatal mistakes. Having too much money is dangerous in another way: Rich candidates don't feel the need to be disciplined, stay on message or smartly marshal their resources."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:36am]


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