So what should we make of the withdrawal of independent candidate Bud Chiles from the Florida gubernatorial race, and his endorsement of Democratic nominee Alex Sink? At first glance, it would seem that this is a pure plus for Dems — but a closer look shows that it’s not so totally cut and dry.
Chiles, a son of the late Dem Gov. Lawton Chiles, had been promoting children’s issues and clean energy in his bid — the sort of stuff that would make you think he would draw Dem voters. And he was having at least some success there. An August 19 Quinnipiac poll of a three-way race between Sink, Republican Rick Scott and Chiles showed the independent taking 13% of the Dem vote — compared to 7% of the Republican vote.
Chiles said last week that he thought the upset win in the Republican primary by right-wing former health care executive Rick Scott would help his own campaign. But he also made it clear which candidate he would prefer if he couldn’t get traction himself: “I’ll say this till the end: I’m not in this race to create a situation where Rick Scott becomes governor.”
The TPM Poll Average of the three-way race gives Sink the lead with 40.9%, followed by Scott at 36.7%, and Chiles with only 7.7%.
Democrats in the state are already spinning Chiles’ withdrawal as a clear plus for their side. “He’s in there for a reason, he has some issues he wants to talk about,” Dem state Rep. Ron Saunders, a friend of Chiles, told the Miami Herald. “But it looks like all he would do is primarily draw votes away from Alex Sink, and knowing him, he didn’t want to do that.”
Speaking to TPMDC, a Democratic source in Florida cast Chiles’s endorsement of Sink as a plus, but also one of many factors. “It takes one more variable out of the equation,” the source said. “It obviously makes it easier for Alex to move forward and have a united group of supporters.”
“It’s always helpful,” the source also said. “But I personally think with endorsements in the broadest sense, they’re helpful, but there’s some things that the candidates themselves have to do than just get the endorsement, to move those voters. Alex has done those things.”
Meanwhile, Rick Scott said had this to say of Chiles’ withdrawal: “This will be a contest which presents a clear choice between a conservative outsider with business experience and a specific plan to create 700,000 jobs, and another liberal Obamacrat who wants to raise taxes, cut Medicare, and supports Obama’s failed stimulus. Anyone who doubted that Chiles would eventually drop out underestimates how desperately Obama liberals like Alex Sink want to do to Florida what they have done to America.”
But as Public Policy Polling (D) noted, Chiles’ supporters may have actually skewed conservative in some ways. In PPP’s polling, pro-Chiles respondents said that they voted for John McCain in 2008 by a 62%-33% margin, and disapprove of President Obama by 69%-31% margin. Furthermore, they were reported as being 47% Republican, 30% Democratic and 23% independent.
However, this same group viewed Rick Scott unfavorably, by a whopping 60%-15% margin. And as a result, PPP’s Tom Jensen wrote off the impact of Chiles’ withdrawal.
Chiles was a landing spot for folks who didn’t like Scott or the Democrats. With him out those folks are going to have to make a lesser of two evils choice- does it bother us more to vote for a guy we dislike or to vote for a Democrat? My guess is it ends up being a wash and having no real effect on the race.