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Daniel Ruth

Alex Sink should put Bud Chiles on the ticket

For the past several weeks, Democratic candidate for governor Alex Sink has enjoyed being a sort of reclusive Emily Bronte of the hustings while the Republican candidates — Attorney General Bill McCollum and Rick Scott, the Cash McCall of Columbia/HCA — have been engaging in a knife fight for the GOP nomination.

Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie have gotten along better than these guys.

Along the way, Sink has learned an interesting lesson about public life: The more you stop bothering people with speeches no one believes and commercials that only annoy everyone, the more likely your electoral prospects might be enhanced.

While Scott and McCollum have been slipping Whoopee cushions under each other's chairs and accusing one another of being crooks, knaves, con artists, liberals and — egad — "career politicians," Florida's chief financial officer has quietly kept to her knitting, waiting for the Republican cage match to resolve itself.

For Sink, the Scott/McCollum bickering has offered her some good news/bad news.

It is always to a political candidate's advantage if the other party turns its primary into a Sunni-Shia feud, leaving in its wake vast sums of money spent and accusations laying bare potential weaknesses ripe for later exploitation. That leaves the eventual primary winner more damaged goods than a Louisiana shrimp factory.

That's good news for Sink. It's even better news for her campaign that a recent Rasmussen Reports poll showed Sink ahead of McCollum, should the attorney general win the nomination, by 31 percent to McCollum's 27 percent. Not too shabby for a candidate who is so charisma-challenged she makes McCollum look like Bobby Kennedy meets George Clooney.

But there is an ill-wind of stinky cheese also wafting through the Rasmussen numbers. Should Scott, the Sammy Glick of Medicare fraud, prevail in the GOP primary, the Naples dilettante — at this moment —leads Sink, 35 percent to 31 percent.

This has to be a vexing for Sink. Could she conceivably lose to a chap who was at the helm of a company charged with the biggest case of Medicare criminal fraud in history, resulting in a $1.7 billion fine?

Perhaps the moral of this story is that yes, Virginia, you actually can fool at least 35 percent of all the people all the time. So it is probably perfectly reasonable the Sink camp is mulling over how to run against the J.R. Ewing of bedpans.

And one potential strategy may be found in some other Rasmussen numbers — 16 percent and 20 percent.

Consider the interesting phenomenon in this electoral season. Rick Scott, the Vito Corleone of stethoscopes, has dropped nearly $30 million of his own money to: A) buy statewide name recognition and B) the very real possibility he might actually win the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

By contrast, Bud Chiles, the son of the late and much beloved former Gov. Lawton Chiles who is as an independent candidate, has managed to pull between 16 percent and 20 percent support, running a campaign with about $1.35 in the bank.

It has probably become abundantly clear to Sink and her brain trust that she cannot simply run against Scott by consistently pointing out he is the Dr. Jack Kevorkian of scruples. McCollum harped on that theme with precious little traction.

So maybe it is time for Sink to be thinking: Lt. Gov. Bud Chiles. After all, He-Coon Jr. has clearly demonstrated that even with a minimum of campaign funds the old family name still has some notable appeal across the state.

With sparse media attention and virtually no advertising, Bud Chiles has attracted as much as 20 percent support in the polls, a commentary perhaps as much on the strength of his father's legacy as the relative weaknesses of better known candidates.

Chiles would bring name recognition and enhanced media attention to the Sink campaign. His presence would also likely help with fundraising, which Sink will sorely need should she find herself running against the Tea Pot Dome of prescription drugs.

The entire object of the exercise of running for office is to … win. Adding Bud Chiles to the Sink ticket helps her … win, if that is what she has in mind.

And since the lieutenant governor's job carries with it less formal duties than a Chernobyl tour guide, really now, unless Chiles turned the post into one long taxpayer funded Club Med retreat like the current incumbent, Jeff Kottkamp, how much harm could he do?

In a 1994 debate Lawton Chiles famously observed, "The old he-coon walks just before the light of day." Jeb Bush is still trying to figure out what he meant.

But for Alex Sink it might be suggested dawn is just breaking over her campaign.

Alex Sink should put Bud Chiles on the ticket 08/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 13, 2010 8:21pm]

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