PJ Media

Libertarian Poised to Be a Spoiler in Florida — But for Whom?

Florida voters know enough about former Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott (R) to know they don’t like or trust either man running for governor of their state.

Most Floridians with a voter registration card don’t know anything at all about the third candidate in the 2014 race for governor, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. But enough of them might vote for Wyllie to worry both Crist and Scott.

“The campaign to be Florida’s next governor tightens slightly and takes on a new dimension with a third candidate in the running,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“Wyllie is not, at this point, a serious contender to win the governorship. But he may have a great deal to say about who does win.”

Perhaps it is not that voters like Wyllie as much as they are just searching for someone they can like.

More than half of the 1,251 voters surveyed for a July Quinnipiac University poll of the Florida gubernatorial candidates — 51 to 40 percent — said Scott does not deserve to be reelected and that he is not “honest and trustworthy.”

Crist, who switched his party affiliation saying the extreme right wing of the GOP drove him to the Democrats, doesn’t fare much better. Florida voters by a margin of 48-39 percent say he isn’t honest or trustworthy, either.

More Florida voters — 52-41 percent for Scott and 47-44 percent for Crist — say neither man “cares about their needs and problems.”

The poll shows Florida voters give Scott a negative 43-48 percent approval rating, one of his best scores in almost four years in office, and a negative 40-45 percent favorability rating.

Crist gets a split rating, 40 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable.

The voters who were surveyed also believe that Scott has better leadership qualities than Crist.

But, most also say Crist, the man they called “Chain Gang Charlie” when he wanted to put prisoners to work along Florida highways, is more compassionate. Crist did say at the time that while he believed in punishment, he also believed in forgiveness.

Crist’s website, along with “Governor Charlie Crist’s schedule for January 6, 2015,” includes charges ranging from “Rick Scott’s ‘Blind’ Trust is an Insult to Florida,” to “Rick Scott’s Medicare Fraud,” to “Rick Scott: Ducking and Dodging for Years.”

In his first TV ad of the campaign, “Sunshine,” Crist reminded voters of his record as governor.

In another TV ad, “Guys Like Rick Scott,” Crist explains that it was “greedy Wall Street bankers and takeover artists” who caused the Great Recession in 2007. “In other words, guys like Rick Scott,” Crist says in the ad.

One of Crist’s most recent TV ads, “Up Here,” accuses Scott of protecting rich Floridians — those “Up Here” — while raising property taxes for middle class residents of Florida, along with cutting college scholarships and money from K-12 education “so he could give tax breaks to big corporations.”

A Rick Scott TV commercial, “Help Is On The Way,” tells voters this election gives them a choice between “somebody who loses 832,000 jobs or somebody who helps create an environment where the business community adds 563,000 jobs.”

Scott’s website focuses on the positive accomplishments of his administration, but also points out that 23 sheriffs released a statement attacking a Crist position on crime.

“Charlie Crist’s reversal on his support of 10-20-Life legislation and mandatory minimums threatens the incredible progress we have made over the last 15 years to make Florida safe for families and visitors,” according to the statement.

Then here comes Adrian Wylie out of far right field, the candidate most people don’t know well enough to not like him.

They don’t have anything bad to say about Wyllie, because 92 percent don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

Wyllie’s ads point out that he is the “only candidate in Florida’s gubernatorial race who supports complete legalization of marijuana and industrial hemp.” They also proudly proclaim he was arrested for “refusing to relinquish his 4th amendment rights,” and would allow “local currencies, time banking, bartering, and the use of gold & silver as a means of exchange.”

Wyllie, the president of an IT consulting company, also has a print ad asking his supporters to “Help Get Wyllie On The Air” by asking their local media outlets to cover his campaign.

He is not above attacking the other guys. A Wyllie TV ad, “Libertarian for Governor 2014 vs. Recycled Republicrats,” claims there is no difference between Crist and Scott.

“Florida’s one-party system has voters asking, ‘Where’s the second guy in the race?’” says the announcer, adding that Wyllie promises to “get the government out of your bedroom.”

“Scott and Crist have been saturating the airwaves with negative ads about each other. An old campaign maxim holds that you can’t throw mud without getting dirty yourself and that seems to be what’s happening here,” Brown said.

“Because Wyllie is so unknown and presumably unable to compete in the air war at this point, how he does may be a function of how unhappy voters are with the major party choices.”

The numbers prove that argument. When Wyllie’s name is put before voters, attitudes change, and the race for governor tightens.

Scott trails Crist in the Quinnipiac Poll by a 45-40 percent margin when only their names are on the ballot.

But when Libertarian candidate Wyllie is added to the slate, the race becomes too close to call, with 39 percent for Crist, 37 percent for Scott and 9 percent for Wyllie.

This compares to a 48-38 percent Crist lead in a head-to-head matchup without Wyllie in an April 30 survey conducted by Quinnipiac University.

Independent voters like Wyllie. He gets his strongest support from independents who back Crist over Scott 45-38 percent in a two-way matchup, but split with 36 percent for Crist and 34 percent for Scott with 12 percent for Wyllie in the three-way race.

Republicans back Scott 79-12 percent when his name is put up against Crist and 74-9 percent, with five percent for Wyllie, in the three-way race.

Democrats go from 78-10 percent for Crist against Scott, to 73-9 percent, with six percent for Wyllie.

Real Clear Politics ranks the Scott-Crist race as a toss-up. The RCP average has Crist in the lead by only two points.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)