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July 29, 2014 11:54 AM Florida’s Toxic Twins

By Ed Kilgore

What do Rick Scott and Charlie Crist most notably have in common, other than the fact that they were the Republican gubernatorial nominees in Florida in 2006 and 2010, respectively, and are running against each other for the same gig this year? Well, they are the only set of gubernatorial nominees with underwater approval/disapproval ratios, as noted by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten:

While the national political scene has decayed into polarized stagnation, Americans’ views of state governments have remained mostly positive. That’s probably part of the reason why governors seem to have an advantage when running for president. Yet in Florida, home to one of the nation’s marquee gubernatorial races, Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott are teetering on becoming the least-liked pair of candidates for any governor’s race in the past 10 years.
Scott has been unpopular for most of his term. His unfavorable rating has almost always exceeded his favorable rating in Quinnipiac University’s polls of the state. In the most recent Quinnipiac survey, for example, 45 percent of Floridans held an unfavorable view of the governor, and just 40 percent held a favorable opinion….
Crist’s image has taken a hit. The percentage of Floridians who view Crist favorably has steadily decreased, while the percentage who view Crist unfavorably has steadily risen.

These trends probably won’t change much during the three or so months just ahead when Scott and Crist are beating on each other with big sticks. But it really is unusual:

It’s rare for both gubernatorial candidates to finish the campaign season with a negative net favorable rating — in fact, it’s only happened twice [in the last ten years].
One of those elections involved the now-disgraced Rod Blagojevich. Then governor of Illinois, he won re-election in 2006, even though his average favorable rating was one point lower than his average unfavorable rating. He was able to do so because his opponent, Republican Judy Baar Topinka, had a favorable rating 20 percentage points below her unfavorable rating.
The other was the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial election, in which the incumbent Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, and Republican Chris Christie pummeled each other with negative ads. By the end of the campaign, a large majority of voters said both had attacked the other unfairly. Christie won as the lesser of two evils.

Those were some bad acts that will be hard to beat. But Rick Scott’s best hope for re-election is to drag Crist down to the bottom of public esteem right along with him, and he’s got the money to do it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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