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Opinion

April 19, 2014

Shribman: Races to watch in 2014

(Continued)

This race will reveal more than who sits in the governor’s chair in Springfield. It will indicate whether the Democrats’ populist themes (increase millionaires’ taxes and keep the minimum wage above the federal level) or the Republicans’ populist themes (cut taxes, improve the commercial climate) prevail among alienated voters in a big state, providing a hint of which campaign strategies might be effective in the 2016 presidential race.

Florida governor. Once again in 2012, the struggle for Florida’s 29 electoral votes, tied with New York as the third biggest prize in American presidential politics, was close — and, for a time, unresolved. In the end, Barack Obama prevailed, the final count giving him a victory with just a fraction over 50 percent of the vote.

With California voting Democratic the last six times, New York going Democratic the last seven times and Texas going Republican the last eight elections in a row, Florida remains the most significant swing state, with the parties splitting Florida’s electoral votes over the last six elections. So Florida will loom large in both parties’ 2016 political calculus.

With no Senate race this year, the battle for the governor’s office is the best indicator of Florida’s mood.

The incumbent is embattled GOP Gov. Rick Scott, and his possible opponent is a former Republican governor himself, Charlie Crist, who was upset in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary by Marco Rubio, now a possible presidential candidate. Crist ran in that year’s general election anyway, finishing second as an independent. Two years later he joined the Democratic Party.

Here the principal issue is health care. Republicans have strong majorities in both houses of the legislature, and when state lawmakers blocked the expansion of Medicaid, they provided an opening for Crist to charge that Scott was responsible for a situation where “six people in Florida die every day as a result.” For his part, Scott and his allies have loosed attacks against Crist for his support of Obamacare.

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