Brutal look at FL Gov. race

August 11, 2006

lensFrom Dr. Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia:

If you hate “the politics of personal destruction” and unpleasant private issues that seep into campaigns, then Florida is one state you do not want to be these days. Three of the four gubernatorial candidates in both parties are spending time talking about their painful marital pasts.

Hardest hit has been the GOP’s *Tom Gallagher*, whose first marriage ended very badly and let to charges of theft, drug use, and, well, let’s just stop there.

His Republican opponent, *Charlie Crist*, had one brief marriage must earlier in life, and his lack of a family has led to scurrilous rumors about his sexual orientation which have plagued his campaign for months.

Add Democrat *Rod Smith* to the list of messy divorces, and throw in an old accusation of unpaid child support.

Smith’s Democratic foe, Congressman *Jim Davis*, is the only one of the gubernatorial quartet with a happy, enduring first marriage.

Will any of this matter come the primaries or the general? If the candidates and the press keep talking about it, probably so.


4 Responses to “Brutal look at FL Gov. race”

  1. Joe Says:

    “Hardest hit has been the GOP’s *Tom Gallagher*, whose first marriage ended very badly and let to charges of theft, drug use, and, well, let’s just stop there.”

    Why stop there? They left out the best part: his admitted infidelity. Of course, a man’s marital past has no real bearing on his ability to lead the State of Florida, but go to and look at his ads. Every single one of them talks about his “conservative… pro-family stands,” how these stands come “from the heart” and “personal experience,” and how he’s a “parent first.” He even has a Spanish language ad that describes him as an “hombre de familia.” But my favorite is this:

    “It seems every candidate has a group they’re fighting for; I do too. It’s called the family. As governor, I won’t allow liberal judges from Massachussets to redefine marriage in our state.”

    First off, does he really think the Massachusetts state supreme court is going to caravan down to Florida and force everyone to “gay-marry,” or is he singling out Justice Souter? But more importantly, what the hell right does he have to “defend marriage” from anyone?

    I don’t expect you to ask these kind of hardball questions in your interview, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if you did.

  2. WanderingHoo Says:

    I actually studied under Sabato more years ago than either of us care to recall at this point at UVA in the early 80s. I find him to be one of the best minds in the land when it comes to an impartial analyst of races and electoral trends.

    His ability to frame a race through a mis of historical perspective and current trends as well to identify those factors that make each race unique is sadly all too rare among many of our current pundits and analysts. If you haven’t done so yet, read his article today on the CT Senatorial race.

    As for the private lives of politicians, unless there is something criminal in their past or proof of gross hypocricy, it is important to bear in mind the job we’re hiring a candidate to do. Would I want Bill Clinton as my marriage counselor or minister – no. He did ok as President though.

    I do agree with Joe that when you look to the list of issues I want on the top of my Governor’s “To Do” list, worrying about the outcome of Massachusetts court cases needs to be somewhere below “New plan for disposal of dead armadillos found on I-10”.

  3. NewDecider2008 Says:

    WanderingHoo, excellent analogy w/ the armadillo disposal. And I agree completely. Private life should be just that….private. But I wonder how Crist being gay will play with the religious base of the republican party. Since they make everyone’s private life their business.

  4. WanderingHoo Says:

    Let’s say whispered rumors of his being gay.

    The Religious Right will have two choices either suck it up and pull the lever for Crist or stay home. Now, if Smith is the Democratic candidate – he may have a little success in pulling a few over to his side. He seldom misses an opportunity to remind folks he’s Southern Baptist.

    Still, I think any drop off on the far right will be more than made up for with gains in the middle where Christ polls better than Gallagher.

    The best hope for the Democrats is for Gallagher to fight it out ’till the bitter end, make Crist spend a bunch of money defending himself against increasingly nasty attacks to the point where he’ll have a hard time pivoting back for the general election.

    If I’m advising Crist – I tell him to write off the right wing now and make a strong play for the middle so he’s not outflanked in the general election. There’s a building anti-Republican, anti-theocrat movement building nationwide. Crist can either get out in front of it and show he’s a new type of Republican or he can risk being swamped by it.

    I’m figuring the “screw the sick, save the embryos” crowd will drag themselves to the polls anyway as long as Harris is on the ticket.

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