Election 2020

Rick Scott Ties Bill Nelson to Nancy Pelosi in Florida Senate Race

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) conducts a news conference in the Capitol on Dec. 20, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is so unpopular, Florida Governor Rick Scott is using her as a punching bag in his campaign to unseat U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

Scott’s latest ad features Florida residents criticizing Nelson for voting “the party line.” One voter in particular declares, “I think Nancy Pelosi’s a huge influence on the Democratic Party and Bill Nelson.”

In a press release about the ad, the Scott campaign explained that some of the Floridians in the ad “previously supported Bill Nelson.” The campaign also listed 5 different ways in which the senator has toed “the party line:”

  • Nelson was a rubberstamp for President Obama, voting with him 98 percent of the time; meanwhile, he has opposed the current President nearly 60 percent of the time. (CQ Vote Study, Access 5/15/18); (Senator Nelson, “Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump,” FiveThirtyEight.com, Accessed 5/15/18)
  • During Nelson’s entire Senate career, he has voted in lockstep with Chuck Schumer 91 percent of the time. (CQ Vote Study, Accessed 5/15/18)
  • When Hillary Clinton was in the U.S. Senate, Nelson voted with her nearly 89 percent of the time. (CQ Vote Study, Accessed 5/15/18)
  • Throughout Elizabeth Warren’s time in the U.S. Senate, Nelson has voted with her 86 percent of the time. (CQ Vote Study, Accessed 5/15/18)
  • When Bernie Sanders arrived in the U.S. Senate, Nelson joined his side by voting with him 86 percent of the time. (CQ Vote Study, Accessed 5/15/18)

Perhaps most importantly, the Florida senator supported and voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, the brainchild of then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and then-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Besides that, the Florida senator has little overlap with Pelosi. Nelson did serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. Pelosi entered the House in 1987, but did not rise to the position of House minority leader until 2003, and did not join the Democratic leadership in the House until 2002, by which time Nelson had been out of the House for 11 years.

Even so, Pelosi is remarkably unpopular across the country. About 20 percent more Americans view her “unfavorably” (48 percent) than “favorably” (29 percent). Her unpopularity likely helped Karen Handel defeat Democrat golden boy Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6 special election last year.

At the time, Corry Bliss, the director of a Super PAC attacking Ossoff, said, “Every morning I wake up and I take a moment to be thankful that the Republican Party still has Nancy Pelosi because Nancy Pelosi is absolutely toxic.” Voters in districts targeted by the Democrats in Florida also had negative views of the minority leader.

Pelosi has attempted to resurrect a Democratic slogan from 2006 attacking Republican “corruption, cronyism, and incompetence,” seemingly oblivious to how each of these terms applies to Obamacare and the federal government under former President Barack Obama.

With Obama out of the White House, Pelosi represents his legacy in the Democratic Party, and she has shown no desire to step aside any time soon. Although the minority leader raises a great deal of money for Democrats, left-wing candidates across the country have disavowed her, agreeing with Bliss that she is “toxic.”

It is remarkable that Rick Scott is attacking Nancy Pelosi in a Senate race, when Bill Nelson never served under Pelosi. However, the House minority leader’s unpopularity might make this a good strategy, and after all the Florida senator did toe the party line, most importantly on Obamacare.

Nelson still leads Scott in the RealClearPolitics polling average by 2.2 percent, but Scott took the lead in the latest poll earlier this month, taking 44 percent to Nelson’s 40 percent. In 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) defeated Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), 52 percent to 44 percent. In 2012, Nelson beat Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) by an even wider margin, 55 percent to 42 percent.

Florida’s Senate race will come down to the wire, and Florida voters had a positive view of Scott in January (58 percent approved, while 31 percent disapproved). Perhaps introducing Pelosi into the race will help push the governor over the edge.