What began Saturday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale as an early voting rally for Charlie Crist turned into a shouting match, featuring the former governor’s supporters squaring off against those backing his opponent Rick Scott.
Crist’s bus pulled into the parking lot of the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center at about noon Saturday and was greeted by a crowd of supporters, mostly black Democrats. Also on hand were Scott supporters, mostly white, carrying “shame on you” signs. Scott’s group included one person barking into a megaphone.
Crist did not step out of the bus to address the crowd. Instead, he waved and smiled to supporters from the bus entrance before quickly departing the library parking lot.
When Republican Party of Florida chairwoman Leslie Dougher held a media gaggle to bash Crist, she was drowned out by the din of pro-Crist supporters.
Later, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera gathered at an adjacent parking area farther from the library and echoed Dougher’s attacks against Crist.
“Rick Scott is a guy who focuses on results, he has delivered them in the past four years,” said Lopez-Cantera. “Unemployment dropped in half, 651,000 new jobs, 40 tax cuts, record level of funding throughout the state budget for everything that is important to Floridians.”
Not to be outdone, State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, told the library parking lot crowd that Crist would unite all Floridians.
“I need a governor who looks at everybody when he is looking to do appointments in this state. ... I need a governor who cares about all of us and loves all of us black white gay straight, whatever you are,” he said.
Democrat Charlie Crist traveled to early voting rallies from Miami to Jacksonville on Saturday.
Broward County has about twice the number of registered Democrats as Republicans.
This is the first statewide general election in which experts expect the majority of votes to be cast before Election Day, Nov. 4.
There's a good chance that more than one-fourth of this Florida election's ballots have already been cast now that more than 1.6 million Floridians have early voted either in person or by absentee.
Though it has been cut significantly over the month, Republicans are still holding a big lead over Democrats in pre-Election Day voting: 46-37 percent, or more than 147,000 ballots, a net increase of more than 3,000 ballots since yesterday.
The good news for Democrats: They're lowering the percentage margin by which Republicans lead, from 9.8 percentage points yesterday to 9.2 points today as the state hosts its first weekend of in-person early voting.
So far, 66,649 people have voted by absentee ballot in Broward and 33,930 have early voted through Friday.