POLITICS -- August 24, 2010 at 11:30 PM ET
Fla. Split Decision: Establishment Insider, Millionaire Outsider Advance
In one of the final high profile primary nights of the 2010 pre-season, voters sent some conflicting messages. The outsider millionaire in the governor's race secured the GOP nomination, while the Democratic establishment insider in the Senate race easily rebuffed an outsider challenge despite being outspent five to one.
But one overriding fact pattern remains and is the cause of great concern in Democratic circles. In the words of President Obama, Republicans are fired up and ready to go.
In the highly competitive primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Florida, 1.2 million votes were cast as of 10:30 p.m. ET. In the high profile Democratic nomination battle for the U.S. Senate, only 854,000 votes were cast by 10:30 p.m. ET - or roughly 71 percent of the Republican turnout in the governors race.
Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., trounced his Democratic rival, billionaire real estate guru Jeff Greene, by 26 points - 57 percent to 31 percent. Mr. Greene spent nearly $30 million of his own money on the race.
Congressman Meek now goes on to what promises to be one of the marquee races of the midterm election season. A three-way general election between Meek, independent Gov. Charlie Crist, and Republican Marco Rubio.
In his victory remarks, Meek laid out his general election message going forward.
"Floridians need leaders who are willing to stand up for middle-class families -- tireless fighters who know what it means to tackle big issues. They deserve leaders who will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve Social Security and will stand with President Obama to rebuild Florida's middle class. Most of all, Floridians want leaders who will fight for them all the time, not just when it helps their own political career or advances an extreme philosophy," Meek said after securing his victory tonight.
Marco Rubio sailed to the GOP nomination after Crist's departure from the party left him with only nominal competition.
All eyes will now be on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to see how much money they are willing to pour into Meek's effort with his running so far behind in the polls, and his bank account completely depleted from his primary run.
Of course, the DSCC could just invest money in attempting to take down Rubio and hope that benefits either Crist or Meek since national Democrats would be happy with either one of them winning.
Unlike the Senate race, in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, millionaire and former hospital CEO Rick Scott spent his way to victory. The first-time candidate spent nearly $50 million of his own fortune to defeat Attorney General Bill McCollum by four points, 47 percent to 43 percent.
This bruising and nasty primary will take some time to heal. McCollum refused to concede the race on Tuesday night and a planned GOP unity rally for Wednesday was canceled earlier today.
Democrat Alex Sink cruised to victory and she hopes to seize upon the continued Republican intra-party divisions as the general election begins for the governor's mansion in a critical battleground state.
"Intraparty struggles are often difficult to watch, and the contest in Florida has been a good example of that. That said, the primary is over, Rick Scott is the nominee, the general election has begun, and our party now looks forward," said Republican Governors Association spokesman Tim Murtaugh, in what can only be read as a less than ringing endorsement for his candidate.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 presidential nominee for his party, was also expected to see his investment pay off on Tuesday night. Sen. McCain spent $21 million of money he raised to fend off a potentially threatening primary challenge from his right by former Rep. J.D.Hayworth, R-Ariz.
At the end of the day, the Hayworth challenge never materialized as quite the threat McCain perceived it to be, but that is largely due to McCain's skilled campaign operation which, early on, was determined to take nothing for granted in this volatile political cycle.
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