The race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist for Florida governor has long been seen as a toss-up, and recent polls bolster that perception of a campaign that could go either way.
But conventional wisdom among Florida's political elite has shifted decidedly in Gov. Scott's favor, the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll shows.
When we surveyed more than 130 of Florida's savviest political hands seven weeks ago, a slight majority predicted Scott would beat Crist. This week, two thirds of our Florida Insiders - including 38 percent of the Democrats participating - said they expect Scott to beat former Gov. Crist.
"With (absentee ballots) dropping in about two weeks, Crist's opportunities to change the dynamics of the race are limited. The clock is ticking and unfortunately that does not bode well for Crist," said one Democrat.
""The Governors race will be closer than some might predict but the GOP off year turnout advantage will be difficult to overcome," another Democrat said. "Up until the last 45 days there has been little effort to create the ground game needed to turn out a base vote. Had the (state Democratic party) and/or Crist started four months ago things may have looked more promising. That said, this is Florida, anything can and may happen to dramatically shift the tide left or right."
The Florida Insider poll is an entirely unscientific survey of people closely involved in the political process, including campaign consultants, fundraisers, lobbyists, academics and activists. This Insider Poll included 77 Republicans, 53 Democrats, and 10 men and women registered to neither major party.
"Thankfully, Scott's ads are (finally) hitting Charlie, but they're still all over the place on message (get it?). The Scott team spent too much time congratulating themselves on being political geniuses to realize this one will close late, close ugly, and they'd better be right that the Dem voter and field operation isn't real," said one Republican. "Too much "we're winning!" talk risks the GOP base not staying alert to the danger of Charlie, and that borders on political malpractice."
The last four public polls point to a neck and neck race, variously showing Scott ahead by up to 5 percentage points and Crist ahead by up to 3.
***59 percent predicted that the medical marijuana initiative will pass.
"Med Marijuana should pass but just don't see a very organized campaign on the pro side of this amendment -- and seems like they may not have the $$ to close strong unless something changes ....going to be close but I would call for the upset here and say it just barely goes down," ventured one Republican.
***55 percent predicted Crist, the former Republican governor-turned independent Senate candidate-turned Democratic guberatorial candidate, would run for office again if he loses in November.
"Asking if we expect Charlie Crist will run for office ever again is like asking if we think it will ever rain again in Tallahassee," one Republican quipped.
***Only 19 percent predicted former businessman Scott will run for another office after leaving the governor's office.
NOTE: Coming tomorrow, our Insiders look at future candidates for governor and U.S. Senate.
This months Florida Insiders included:
Ben Pollara, Eric Jotkoff, Tre Evers, Bernie Campbell, Jeff Wright, Bob Poe, Michael Albetta, Husein Cumber, Sarah Bascom, Andy Ford, Karl Koch, Don Hinkle, Jim Rimes, Hayden Dempsey, James Harris, Mac Stipanovich, Paul Bradshaw, David Johnson, Sam Bell, Nancy Watkins, Allan Bense, Christina Johnson, Ryan Tyson, Dan Smith, Tim Baker, Rockie Pennington, Susannah Randolph, Rich Heffley, Ron Greenstein, Mark Ferrulo, Roger Stone, Mike Hanna, Ryan Duffy, Scott Barnhart, Jill Chamberlin, David Custin, Kevin Cate, Greg Turbeville, John Dowless, Marion Hammer, Towson Fraser, Kirk Pepper, Rick Wilson, Brian Hughes, John Morgan, Scott Peelen, Sarah Rumpf, Chris Kise, Alex Burgos, Jamie Miller, Kirk Fordham, Meredith Orourke, Alex Patton, Robert Wexler, Alia Faraj, John French, Aubrey Jewett, Bridget Nocco, Steve Geller, Kathy Mears, Shephen Shiver, Paul Senft, Alan Clendenin, David Bishop, Ashley Walker, Ana Navarro, Barry Edwards, Screven Watson, Jason Fischer, Cory Tilley, Marc Reichelderfer, Jamie Wilson, Joe Perry, Andrew Gillum, Dave Aronberg, Eric Eikenberg, Jeff Johnson, Richard Swann, Roly Marante, Kelly Cohen, Bud Shorstein, Stephen Bittel, Steve Yerrid, Lucy Morgan, Ann Herberger, Bob Graham, Darryl Paulson, Brian Crowley, Justin Day, Monica Russo, Gus Corbella, Ron Sachs, Mike Hamby, John Wehrung, Paul Mitchell, Brian Burgess, Tom Gaitens, Mike Hightower, Stafford Jones, Derrick McGhee, Frank Tsamoutales, Richard Gentry, Cindy Graves, Sally Bradshaw, Seth McKee, Tom Tillison, Alex Sink, Nancy McGowan, Dan Krassner, Dan Mclaughlin, Brett Doster, Mark Zubaly, Brian Ballard, Cynthia Henderson, Fred Karlinsky, Damien Filer, Fred Piccolo, John Stemberger, Jon Johnson, Marty Fiorentino, Greg Truax, Stephanie Kunkel, Pablo Diaz, Larry Cretul, Nels Kingston, Slater Bayliss, Andrew Weinstein, Steve Schale, Shannon Gravitte, David Rancourt, Jon Mills, Ron Bilbao