Ruth: The political board game, off-year edition

Published June 3, 2013

These are the dog days of politics. So many candidates. So many offices. So much idle speculation. And, alas, so much time to ponder the fire hydrant of the hustings.

We're still over a year away until the 2014 election cycle. Still, what's a political junkie to do but ponder and muse and chin-rub over who will run for what?

Unleash the pols!

The main rumination concerns who will challenge Gov. Rick Scott, the Deputy Dawg of Tallahassee, an awkward candidate who appears to be more uncomfortable in his own skin than one of those roadside folks in a chicken costume trying to induce you into buying a bucket of wings.

Scott demonstrated in 2010 that one can have the retail political skills of an oat bag and still get elected governor of the fourth-largest state if one is willing to spend $70 million of one's own money.

After three years in office managing to offend just about every Florida constituency with the exception of his Villages enclave of tea party followers, Scott has discovered he loves public school teachers after all and that maybe poor people ought to be able to get a Medicaid-funded aspirin now and then.

And in a bone tossed to his base, the governor also wants to speed up the pace of executions in a state that has more death row exonerations than the entire run of Perry Mason.

There's been some la-dee-dah speculation Scott might face an internal Republican challenge from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the Irish setter of the GOP. This is the direct result of political wags having nothing better to do with themselves as summer approaches, so why not stir up some mischief?

No doubt Putnam often wakes up humming "Hail to the Governor." But if he opposed Scott in a fractious Republican primary, essentially doing the Democrats' opposition research for them, Putnam would be to blame if Scott beat him in the primary but lost in the general election. Besides, Putnam is only 14 years old and still has plenty of time.

That brings us to the Democrats and their de facto front-runner, former Gov. Charlie Crist. He is the Dalmatian of the Democrats — a hound with plenty of spots to shoot at.

About the worst kept secret in Florida politics is that the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat is going to run for governor again. Of course he is. Crist without a baby to kiss or a hand to shake is like Martha Stewart without a spatula.

Crist is often criticized for lacking core principles. But since he's managed to get elected to the state Senate, state education commissioner, attorney general and governor, it seems lacking core principles isn't quite a deal breaker.

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The ex-governor can be expected to face some sort of opposition.

There's Sen. Bill Nelson, Old Blue the aging bloodhound lolling about on the front porch trying to decide if it is worth giving up the perks and prestige of the Senate to manage a state and all its inherent complexities.

Former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010, is like a regal standard poodle, a breed indifferent to such indignities as being expected to chase after a tennis ball when it should simply be presented on a silver plate.

You have to suspect Sink would love a chance to beat Scott if only it didn't involve actually running for the job.

Then there is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, the testy pit bull of the cadre of potential Democratic candidates. But in a field of scene stealers, Rich continues to battle name recognition problems.

Rich has argued that what Democratic voters want is a true Democrat. Perhaps, but forgive some cynicism. What most voters want is a candidate who can win and worry about fealty to ideology after the votes are counted.

Of course all of this could soon change. It's only June 2013, when the rumors are easy. And the summer is long-winded.

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