TO: Political reporters, interested parties
FROM: Scott Arceneaux, Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party
DATE: June 15, 2012
RE: GOP Brand Toxic In Florida
From Rick Scott to Allen West, Florida Republicans have a serious branding problem. For all their over-the-top rhetoric and extreme policies, the GOP’s most outspoken leaders are threatening to drag down the GOP ticket in 2012 by damaging their appeal among Florida’s coveted independent-minded voters.
Entering the critical summer campaign months, Republican candidates are hamstrung by their party affiliation and saddled with the baggage of the Governor’s toxic approval. This deadly combination is hurting GOP candidates up and down the ballot. A recent survey by Public Policy Polling showed Florida Democratic congressional candidates holding a generic + 2 advantage over a generic Republican opponent, and internal polling reflects Democratic candidates for the state Legislature enjoy the same +2 advantage.
As the Florida GOP continue to positions themselves further and further to the extreme right, Democrats are capitalizing – putting forth a slate of candidates with deep roots in their communities and who are poised to benefit from the state’s shifting demographics in key districts across the state.
Heading into the fall elections, we take a look at the ways the GOP are damaging their brand and laying a foundation for Democratic victories.
RICK “TOXIC” SCOTT
Toxic is Rick Scott’s middle name. Just ask Mitt Romney who has visited the state 53 times – carefully avoiding the embattled Governor at each campaign stop.
DRAG ON THE TICKET
Gov. Scott’s approval rating has remained underwater since he was swept into office during the Tea Party wave of 2010, forcing the Republican Party of Florida to take to the airwaves with over a million dollars in advertisements two years out from the Governor’s re-election campaign. But the GOP’s cash infusion isn’t moving the needle, with recent poll confirming Scott’s numbers have dropped to a new low – 56-percent of voters now disapprove of the job he’s doing. In fact, state Sen. Nan Rich – whose name recognition currently stands at 14-percent – would beat Scott by a landslide of 12-points if the election for Governor were held today. Scott’s push to eliminate some people from the voter rolls “hasn’t done his popularity any favors:” only 34-percent of voters approve of that effort versus 50-percent who disagree.
Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Republican’s single-minded pursuit of a partisan voter purge – of which 50-percent of Floridians disapprove – is only the latest in a string of extreme measures which the Governor has prioritized.
In addition to the voter purge, Scott’s rock-bottom approval is the product of the Republicans’ unpopular and extremist initiatives. From attempting to restrict women’s health care, to attempting to privatize Florida prisons for the benefit of a large political contributor, to a budget that provided zero dollars for public school construction and slashed funding for higher education, Scott and the Republicans spent their months in Tallahassee painting a perfect picture of how truly out of touch the GOP is with the concerns of Florida’s middle class families.
From the criminal fraud trial of former Republican Chairman Jim Greer to the party’s embattled Congressmen known for their unethical and extreme behavior, the GOP are swimming upstream as they work to define themselves in the eyes of voters.
JIM GREER TRIAL
The criminal fraud trial of former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer is set to take place at virtually the same time (and just over an hour away) from the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
The dirty details of some of Florida’s top Republicans – including often mentioned VP candidate Marco Rubio – are already starting to trickle out. As more information surfaces, the scandals surrounding the RPOF will continue to damage voter’s perception of the GOP.
BUCHANAN, RIVERA, WEST
These three Republican congressmen are known for all the wrong reasons. Both Buchanan and Rivera have been under investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies for corrupt financial practices, while West, the Tea Party darling, repels Independent voters every time he opens his mouth. Polling show’s West approval is upside down at 21/30 and the numbers are even more lopsided among African Americans where he sits at 9/49.
Each of these embattled Congressmen have drawn strong challengers and are in competitive districts – but even more significantly, each time they dominate a national or statewide news-cycle, they remind Florida voters of the underlying corruption and extremism that defines Florida Republicans.
In summary, the toxic Republican brand will go head-to-head this November with strong Democratic recruits, many of whom have deep roots in their communities and are poised to help state Democrats break the GOP Supermajority, make congressional gains and re-elect President Obama and Senator Nelson.