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Nan Rich has a Tough Hill to Climb Against Charlie Crist

July 29, 2014 - 6:00pm
Nan Rich has less than four weeks to try to catch Charlie Crist, and the task is looking near impossible. But there are some factors which will help Rich close the gap though they are certainly not enough to overcome Crists edge.

Even though shes been in the race for more than two years now, Richs fundraising has been abysmal. Since she got in back in April 2012, Rich has raised $420,801, used $299,310 of in-kind donations and spent $324,900. Thats not enough for some of the congressional and legislative races in Florida, let alone a gubernatorial campaign. Rich has been noticeably absent from TV, something that cant be said of Rick Scott and Crist.

But Rich has a few advantages. One is the mood of the Democratic electorate. There will always be Democratic primary voters who wont like moderate candidates being backed by the party leadership. Despite being the Socialist Partys presidential candidate two years before, Brian Moore still took almost a quarter of the primary vote against Alex Sink in 2010.

Rich is also helped by other Democratic primaries across the state. Nobody is particularly excited about the yawn-inducing showdown between George Sheldon and Perry Thurston to get to see who loses to Pam Bondi in November. A good turnout by Thurston in Broward County could help Rich who has longstanding ties to that area.

But theres not much else out there. None of the Democratic congressional primaries are that compelling with the possible exception of two challengers going after Alcee Hastings. With the exception of the Geri Thompson-Gary Siplin contest, there are no really exciting state Senate primaries. There are some more competitive Florida House primaries across the state, including in Tampa Bay and South Florida, but all signs indicate a low turnout.

That should help Rich to some extent. Her voters are committed to her more than Crists are, and various factors -- his refusal to debate her, the party leadership going out of its way to ignore her -- only strengthen their resolve. Crist is already acting like a general election candidate, going after Scott, ignoring Rich and even already naming a running mate. That alone should ensure Richs voters hit the polls.

But all of this being the case, Rich is still a major underdog. Even if all these factors go her way, Rich will have a hard time breaking 40 percent against Crist. Florida is simply too large and has too many media markets to rely solely on grassroots turnout the way Rich is. Candidates need to hit the airwaves, the way Scott and Crist have been doing for weeks.

Richs long, lonely campaign is almost done. She is set to do better than people think, certainly better than the 20 percent she got in a recent Gravis poll. But it will be next to impossible for her to beat Crist come Aug. 26 or even keep it within single digits.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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