A Quinnipiac poll released late this week revealed that former governor Charlie Crist leads current governor Rick Scott by a whopping 12 points – 48 to 36. One in four republicans support Crist, too. Then there is this:
The former governor holds a strong lead among independent, women, black and Hispanic voters, while Scott leads among white voters and Republicans.
A 2012 Pew Research study found that Hispanics now make up make up 17 percent of the Florida electorate. Pew broke down Florida’s Hispanic vote further:
Obama carried Florida’s Hispanic vote 60% to 39%, an improvement over his 57% to 42% showing in 2008. Also, Hispanics made up 17% of the Florida electorate this year, up from 14% in 2008.
The state’s growing non-Cuban population—especially growth in the Puerto Rican population in central Florida—contributed to the president’s improved showing among Hispanic voters. This year, according to the Florida exit poll, 34% of Hispanic voters were Cuban while 57% were non-Cuban. Among Cuban voters, the vote was split—49% supported Obama while 47% supported Romney. Among the state’s non-Cuban voters, Obama won 66% versus 34% for Romney.
Scott’s people know they cannot perform poorly with Hispanic voters as did Romney and have any chance of winning. But they know that it is within this demographic where there is an opportunity to take votes away from Crist. Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s “massive expansion” of school voucher options during this year’s legislative session may propose such goodies as the Arizona debit card plan. But what may drive Scott and republicans thinking even more is the results of this study commissioned by John Kirtley’s American Federation for Children:
According to a May 2012 poll commissioned by the American Federation for Children (AFC) and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) and conducted by Beck Research, a Democratic-leaning firm, 85 percent of likely voters and 91 percent of Latinos in five battleground states—Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Nevada — think vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs should be available in some form, while majorities of likely voters and Latinos also support specific school choice proposals. Support is especially high for special needs scholarship programs, which are favored by 74 percent of voters and an astounding 80 percent of Latino voters.
As for Kirtley, he’s been spending a lot of his money on supporting Florida’s republican legislators and and on Scott’s reelection campaign. During 2013 alone, Kirtley or his wife contributed $116,001.59 to state politicians or political committees. Only $3000 went to 6 Democrat politicians. A whopping $95,000 went to PACs or EOCs which will be supporting Scott. Look for the three PAC/EOCs – Scott’s own Let’s Get to Work (EOC) , And Justice for All PAC , Florida Jobs PAC to be making ad buys – perhaps even in Spanish – to tout Scott’s school choice plans.
Even in the event Kirtley and Scott are unable to get their voucher agenda through during the current legislative session, Scott will be on record with Hispanic voters that he favors such measures. The best Crist will do to is, “me, too,” and point to his record as governor. Expect to see cynical attacks on Crist for his support from teacher unions and his veto of SB6 as “failing to hold teachers and schools accountable.”
The distance between Scott and Crist will certainly narrow as the election draws near. The small percentage of Hispanic voters Scott can turn his way with promises of vouchers and debit cards could turn out to be enough to return him to the governor’s mansion.