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Scott Wins Florida GOP Gubernatorial Nomination     Permalink

Billionaire tea partier Rick Scott (R) rocked the Republican establishment by defeating Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) for the Florida gubernatorial nomination by a margin of 46% to 43%, with retired Army officer Mike McCalister getting the rest. This race has implications far beyond the Florida governor's mansion, but first the basics. Scott won the nomination by spending $40 million of his own vast fortune buying TV ads trashing McCollum as just another politician. Convincing Florida Republicans, who tend to be very conservative, to pick a tea partier over an establishment politician has proven quite easy this year (see Kentucky, Colorado, and Nevada) but will be a much harder sell in the general election. For one thing, he campaigned by supporting Arizona's controversial law that orders the police to stop anyone they think might be illegal. How is that going to fly with the state's huge Latino population? Many of them are Republicans (especially the Cuban-Americans) but in the primary they had McCollum and McCalister to vote for if they didn't want to vote for Scott. In the general election, it will be just Scott vs. the state's Chief Financial Officer (think: State Treasurer) Alex Sink (D).

If McCollum had won, he would have been the slight favorite against Sink, but now the roles flip. Sink has already campaigned for (and won) statewide office, so probably she doesn't have a lot of skeletons left in her closet. With Scott, the oppo research is only beginning. It is already widely known that Scott's company, Columbia/HCA, was fined $1.7 billion for defrauding the government over Medicare payments. But more is starting to come out. For example, he was a member of the board of directors of Secure Computing, a company that worked for the Iranian and Saudi Arabian governments helping them censor the Internet. Expect TV ads from the Democrats saying that Scott used to help run a company that supported the terrorists. And who knows what other aspects of Scott's past will soon come to light.

To get an idea of Scott's problem in the general election, consider this. He got 595,000 votes yesterday. In 2006, 4.7 million people voted in the gubernatorial election. That's 4.1 million voters who didn't vote for him yesterday. They fall into three categories: Democrats, independents, and Republicans who voted for McCollum or McAlister in primary. Scott is not likely to get many Democratic votes, is likely to be too conservative for a fair fraction of the independents, and will certainly get far fewer than 100% of the McCollum and McAlister supporters. While tough primaries sometimes help harden a candidate (see: Obama vs. Clinton in 2008), this is certainly not one of those races. It remains to be seen if McCollum even endorses Scott. No doubt the GOP establishment in Florida will all nominally rally to his cause, but whether it does it with any enthusiasm is something else given how he attacked them during the campaign. The one (and only) thing going for Scott is his ability to dump another $40 million or more into TV ads, but convincing Democrats will be a lot harder sell than convincing Republicans.

The Florida governor's race has implications beyond who gets to run Florida. For starters, Florida is likely to gain a congressional seat in the 2010 redistricting. Currently, Republicans occupy 15 of the state's 25 House seats and would love to get #26 as well. The state legislature is dominated by the Republicans but if Scott goes down in flames in November, any partisan plan to redistrict the state would be vetoed by Gov. Sink. Scott's win yesterday could end up costing the Republicans 2-4 House seats by preventing any kind of gerrymandering.

In addition to the above, Florida is the mother of all swing states in presidential elections, and in 2012, President Obama would no doubt benefit from having a Democratic governor, who can help organize the ground operation. Finally, having Scott on top of the ticket is certainly going to repel the state's moderate Republicans and may cause them to stay home on election day, which will help Democrats in other races.

Meek Wins Democratic Senatorial Nomination in Florida     Permalink

While being a sleazy billionaire sometimes gets you a nomination, it doesn't always work. Jeff Greene (D), he of the big yacht full of paid female "entertainers" hired to "amuse" his male "friends", was handily displatched by formerly unknown congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL) by a margin of 57% to 31% Establishment Democrats cheered last night as one Greene (Alvin, in South Carolina) was already one too many. Meek has almost no chance of beating Marco Rubio, the Republican nominee and Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent, but his victory does open up a longshot option for the Democrats. Suppose that come October the polls show him with 10-15% of the vote, a not improbable scenario. It might well occur to Obama to give Crist a call and say something like: "If I get Meek to drop out and endorse you, will you publicly announce you will caucus with the Democrats?" Crist already knows that his supporters want this by a 2:1 margin so the prospect of suddenly becoming the de facto Democratic nominee in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans might be of interest to him. Of course, such an announcement would cause him to lose the 20% of Republicans who still support him, but that number would be small compared to to what he would gain. To get Meek out of the race, Obama could offer him an important job in his administration. Or if Sink was way ahead of Scott at that time, Obama could ask Sink to offer him a job in her administration. Meek is a loyal Democrat and if it was clear to him that he had no chance at all of winning the Senate seat, he might agree. In any event, this is clearly a race to watch.

Alaska GOP Senate primary Too Close to Call     Permalink

Another key race yesterday was the Republican senatorial primary, pitting incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski against the unknown Joe Miller. With 98% of the votes counted, Miller led Murkowski 51.1% to 48.9% with a margin of 2000 votes. However, there are 8000 absentee ballots yet to be counted. Miller is a tea partier backed by Sarah Palin. If he can beat Murkowski, he will probably go on to defeat Scott McAdams (D), the mayor of Sitka, in the Fall, but more important, Palin will have demonstrated her ability to take down an establishment politician by just posting comments on her Facebook page. But even if Miller loses by a whisker, her power will only increase. If Murkowski loses, she will be the third incumbent senator to fail to gain renomination this year, following Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Arlen Spector (D-PA).

McCain Wins Easily in Arizona     Permalink

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) trounced his fiery opponent, J.D. Hayworth (R) in the Arizona senatorial primary yesterday, by a margin of better than 2:1. To pull off this win, McCain had to abandon his support for many long-held principles, like the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. Of course, once he is safely back in the Senate, who knows what he will do. To get there, he will have to defeat Tucson city councilman Rodney Glassman (D), but as a four-term senator and former presidential, knocking off a city councilman who nobody has ever heard in a Republican year is not going to be a major project.

Vermont Democratic Gubernatorial Nomination Too Close to Call     Permalink

With 87% of the vote in, three Vermont Democrats, Peter Shumlin, Doug Racine, and Deborah Markowitz, were separated by only 700 votes. This will go down to the wire and a recount is likely.

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