In 2014, Democrats have a chance to win back the Governor’s Mansion for the first time since Lawton Chiles narrowly defeated Jeb Bush in 1994. In the 20 years that the Republicans have held the position, we have had to deal with the poor decisions of Jeb Bush, Rick Scott and, yes, the newest member of the Democratic Party Charlie Crist. And with Rick Scott hovering around the 39% approval rating mark, the Democrats’ chances look good.
But does it really matter?
In regards to policy, it absolutely matters. But when it comes to Democratic Party politics, I’m not entirely sure.
When looking at the race, one thing sticks out, and that is Rick Scott’s 39% approval rating. As we all know that isn’t good at all. Therefore, if the Democrats do beat Rick Scott, was there any real challenge in doing so? Yes, on election night we will be celebrating that Scott is gone and whatever Democrat has defeated him. But what will be the reaction afterward?
After this past election, we see the Florida Democratic Party patting itself on the back for a lackluster performance. Many of the races those in the next election cycle. Therefore, what the Democrats gained in 2012 is not really anything that can be built on in 2014. It is what it is.
So what will the 2014 election be about? Of course, people think it will be about Rick Scott. Many of those feel that Rick Scott is the main issue and that a Democratic win would trickle down to other candidates. We tried this in 2012 with the Obama campaign and it really didn’t work. Also, in the cases where we truly picked up seats, the Democratic candidates in those seats worked hard to win.
Still, there are two fatal flaws in the “trickle down” campaign. First, we are relying on people being “anti-Rick Scott” instead of “pro-Democratic”. The last time that there was a “pro-Democratic year” was 1964. Even the 2006 and 2008 pick ups really come down to the electorate being more anti-Bush than they were pro-Democratic. This isn’t just a Florida problem, it is a national problem. But it is something that Democrats need to move away from.
The second flaw that the “trickle down” plan has is that it can cause laziness in candidate recruitment. Because Democrats think that the “anti-Rick Scott Effect” will help Democrats win, there is an automatic assumption of anyone being able to win a seat. Therefore, instead of spending time and resources on candidate recruitment, the FDP could possibly spend more time on slamming Rick Scott. Yes, we might win the governor’s race, but will we pick up any Florida House seats? One can argue that, with the current layout, the Democrats could actually lose two seats. Therefore, they need to make up the loses in seats that they didn’t target in 2012.
But the above scenario assumes that Rick Scott loses. What about the flip side? What if Rick Scott actually wins reelection? At this point it is vitally more important to have quality candidates running for the Legislature. If the Democrats have mediocre candidates running because they assume that a Rick Scott defeat would pull them ahead, these candidates will surely lose if Rick Scott wins.
Not only is smart recruiting important, but so is smart spending. It can be argued that most of the money that the FDP pumped into the last election cycle was a waste. A lot of it went to candidates that were already going to win. But candidates in close State House races could have made a strong push if they had a little support from the FDP. Therefore, candidate recruitment is just one part of the puzzle. Funding the candidates is just as important.
Overall, defeating Rick Scott is important, but it isn’t the only thing that Democrats need to do. The Florida Democratic Party has still failed to give people in Florida a reason to vote for them. Instead of the Democrats being the “they aren’t the Republicans” option, we need to make them a viable option. The way that Democrats do that is by recruiting quality candidates that have a strong grasp of the issues and can debate them in an intelligent way.
Therefore, defeating Rick Scott is good because we get him out of office, of course. But in the grand scheme of things, it is only part of what the Democrats need to do. If they concentrate solely on Scott and don’t try to build their candidate recruitment efforts, then the Rick Scott defeat might be the only thing Democrats are celebrating in 2014.