Exclusive Fla Insider Poll: Bill Nelson toughest challenger to Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott's re-election prospects would be much weaker if he faced Sen. Bill Nelson as the Democratic nominee, rather than Charlie Crist. That's the overwhelming sentiment of 119 veteran Florida political experts in the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll.
Nearly two thirds of the Florida Insiders surveyed Monday and Tuesday said Florida's top Democrat and senior senator would be a stronger gubernatorial nominee against Gov. Scott than former Gov. Charlie Crist,a longtime Republican who late last year switched his party registration to Democrat. Nearly eight in 10 said Nelson would beat Crist in a primary.
"Republicans who don't want to vote for Rick Scott would only do so if given the choice between the governor and a person who betrayed their party," said one Democrat. "Nelson can finally be governor (as he has always wanted) and his legacy will be that of having saved our state from Pink Slip Rick. he is literally the perfect panacea to end the Florida Democratic Party blues"
Another Republican agreed: "I don't see any way on Earth that Rick Scott could beat Nelson, but there are many paths to victory against Crist.
Neither Nelson nor Crist have said they intend to run for governor, but Crist is widely seen as much more likely to enter the race. Concern that Crist could have too many baggage having changed parties has prompted prominent Democratic donors and activists to encourage Nelson to run for governor.
Sixty-three percent of those surveyed - including 66 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans - said Nelson would be the strongest nominee for Democrats. Thirty-one percent said Crist would be strongest, and 5 percent said former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. No one named former state senator Nan Rich of Broward County, the only announced candidate so far.
Among the political operatives, fundraisers, activists and academics who participated in the latest Florida Insider poll, not everybody sees Nelson as the best bet, however.
"Nelson can raise money to go up on the air, but he will have trouble inspiring the rising American electorate (in particular blacks and Hispanics) to the polls - who are critical to a Democratic win. Crist can potentially walk AND chew gum," said a Democrat.
Democrats at this early stage are considerably more optimistic about the governor's race than Republicans. Seventy six percent said a Democrat will take the governor's mansion in 2014, while just 53 percent of Republicans predicted Scott will win a second term.
"Rick Scott's team is in a deep hole and they lack the political skills to climb out," said one Republican.
Another Republican: "Scott wins if job growth is measurably improved, the political climate turns against Obama, and a Democrat primary draws some blood from Crist."
This month's Florida Insiders included 64 Republicans, 42 Democrats, and 13 people registered to other parties or without party affiliation. They are:
Bob Poe, Eric Jotkoff, Brian Crowley, Ben Pollara, Damien Filer, John French, Kirk Pepper, Kathy Mears, Kevin Cate, Rockie Pennington, Todd Wilder, Ryan Tyson, Mark Gilbert, Cynthia Henderson, Rick Wilson, Mitchell Berger, Frank Tsamoutales, Meredith O'Rourke, John Wehrung, Brian May, Mike Hamby, Susannah Randolph, Kirk Wagar, Tim Baker, Brad Coker, Nancy Watkins, Tom Gaitens, Jamie Miller, Ron Greenstein, Alex Patton, Marion Hammer, Kevin King, Dave Karvelas, Rodney Barreto, Cindy Graves, Mac Stipanovich, William Helmich, Brian Ballard, Jeff Johnson, Mark Ferrulo, David Custin, John Stemberger, Lucy Morgan, Karl Koch, David Bishop, Stephen Bittel, Roger Stone, Clarence McKee, Marc Reichelderfer, Dylan Sumner, Joe Perry, Trey McCarley, Stephen Shiver, Greg Truax, Ken Jones, John Morgan, James Harris, Peter Schorsch, Gus Corbella, Alex Heckler, Sarah Rumpf, Nancy McGowan, Ryan Duffy, Andrew Weinstein, Ann Herberger, Tom Tillison, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Scott Arceneaux, Brian Burgess, Jill Chamberlin, John Long, Tyler Hudson, Can Poole, Scott Peelen, Tony Hill, Susie Wiles, Monica Russo, Henry Kelley, Michael Albetta, Greg Turbeville, Jim Kitchens, Jackie Lee, Abel Harding, Dan Krassner, Sally Bradshaw, Vincent Harris, John Dowless, Aubrey Jewett, Chris Ingram, Hussein Cumber, Karen Unger, Ashley Walker, Kirk Fordham, Dan smith, Arlene DiBenigno, Darryl Paulson, Alex Burgos, Jim Rimes, Jim Davis, Bud Shorstein, Brett Doster, Justin Day, Seth McKee, Jason Fischer, Dave Aronberg, Donald Hinkle, Ron Sachs, Stephanie Grutman, David Johnson, Steve Geller, Shannon Gravitte, Christina Johnson.