1. Florida Politics

Steve Bousquet: Rick Scott, Charlie Crist typify strangeness of Florida politics

Published Feb. 25, 2014

V.O. Key, a political scientist at Harvard, wrote a book in 1949 called Southern Politics in State and Nation. The Florida he found was a place where it was "almost literally every candidate for himself."

"Loyalties have not been built up, traditional habits of action with respect to social personages, leaders and parties have not been acquired," Key wrote. "Flux, fluidity and uncertainty in human relations are the rule."

Imagine what the late Professor Key would think of today's Florida, where the leading Democratic candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, was a Republican before he became an independent and tried to become a U.S. senator, and now wants his former job back — all in the space of a few years.

Or where the Republican governor, Rick Scott, barely qualified to run for governor in 2010 because he had been in the state only a brief time longer than the seven years required by the Florida Constitution.

Then "Rick who?" spent more than $70 million of his own money to get elected, almost daily having to dodge questions about the record fine paid by his former hospital company for Medicare fraud.

Now, more than three years later, he's prepared to spend up to $100 million for re-election as polls show a majority of voters don't want to give him a second term.

When Scott, the stranger, used his checkbook in 2010 to bludgeon GOP rival Bill McCollum and the entire party establishment, it was evident that loyalties had not been built up, as Dr. Key might say.

And for fresh evidence of flux, fluidity and uncertainty, look no further than Florida Democrats as they now embrace as their savior a politician who used to be a "Ronald Reagan Republican" and then a "Jeb Bush Republican" before changing parties and claiming he no longer wants any part of its extremism.

Across Florida, voters can already be heard grumbling that they don't like either of these likely choices for governor in 2014.

To some voters, both are fundamentally flawed men.

But what Key couldn't anticipate was a state with nearly 20 million people and 10 distinct TV markets, a place where running for statewide office is a Herculean effort, which is why so few people even seriously attempt it.

The incessant need for money only makes it more difficult.

Crist ran statewide in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2010.

This is his sixth statewide campaign; he's the first serious Florida candidate to run under three party labels.

Scott remains an enigma.

A highly disciplined politician who travels in a private jet, he's the quintessential CEO, awkwardly dealing with legislators, the media and public, a political oddity still.

But the political sage who decades ago observed Florida without "traditional habits of action" would have recognized him immediately.

Contact Steve Bousquet at or (850) 224-7263.


  1. Tallahassee Mayor and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum talks with reporters before addressing a group of gay and lesbian Democrats in Tallahassee on Aug. 19. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington)
    Gillum accused Florida’s Republican governor of “routine” voter suppression.
  2. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks to reporters in Tampa on Aug. 21. Delays in his filling vacancies on the state's five water management district boards have twice led to those agencies canceling meetings to levy taxes and set budgets, which one expert said was unprecedented. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Vacancies lead to canceling two agencies’ budget meetings.
  3. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  4. Richard Swearingen, Florida's Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement, testifies before state lawmakers on Monday. Florida Channel
    But law enforcement officials are getting behind a “threat assessment system.”
  5. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  6. The Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach. JOE RAEDLE  |  Getty Images
    It wasn’t immediately clear how much Mar-a-Lago would charge to host the Marine Corps Birthday Ball — or even if it might do so for free.
  7. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  8. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  9. Tonight's LGBTQ Presidential Forum is hosted by Angelica Ross of FX's Pose. Twitter
    A live stream of the event and what to watch for as 10 candidates meet on stage in Iowa.
  10. In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.  [AP Photo | Steven Senne] STEVEN SENNE  |  AP
    "The department does not appear to have the authority to do anything.”