Rick Scott’s poll numbers look dismal. His finances don’t.
"One number should worry you: $70 million. That’s how much Rick Scott spent in 2010," Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, Miami-Dade’s new Democratic chairwoman, told Democrats this weekend.
To be clear, she was referring to Scott’s personal money. And it was actually closer to $75.1 million.
Include the Republican Party, and Scott probably spent just under $100 million. He was worth at least $218 million at the time, but reports he lost net worth after becoming governor. His wife has millions more.
Scott is prepared to spend as much or more in 2014.
The money race is on. And Democrats are losing it. But they know it.
That’s a big reason they picked Allison Tant on Saturday as state Democratic chairwoman. When she nominated Tant, Taddeo-Goldstein specifically mentioned Scott’s spending.
Tant knows campaign money. She raised it for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and President Obama. She was recruited by Nelson and her friend, Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In much of the nation, many liberals feel Republicans are in retreat after Obama’s win. Florida Democratic leaders and insiders showed this weekend that they don’t believe it.
A few Democrats and many Republicans see Obama’s victory as more of a coin-toss result instead of a mandate in Florida. The president won the state by just .9 percentage points. Obama’s 2008 margin: 2.8 points.
After that first Obama’s victory, magazines like Time displayed a May 18, 2009, cover of an elephant with the headline: “Endangered Species.”
Democrats proceeded to lose every statewide elected seat based in Tallahassee in 2010. They were swamped nationwide, too. Republicans, though, no longer hold the supermajority they won two years ago in the Florida Legislature thanks to the last election.
“It’s foolish to think the next election will be easy,” said Nan Rich, a former state Senate Democratic leader from Weston running for governor.
“Rick Scott has a lot of money,” she said. “And it’s not just him. It’s the Republican Party.”
Republicans still control the Legislature. They still control the governor’s mansion. And that means all the big special interests doing business in the state Capitol — anything from telecom companies to agricultural interests to the real-estate industry to insurers — contribute outsized sums to the GOP.
In the fundraising quarter that ended New Year’s Eve, the state Republican Party raised nearly $2.2 million — more than five times what the state Democratic Party pulled in.
Scott has $4.7 million in one campaign account. And none of that includes the millions available to Republican legislative leaders.
Rich has raised $81,000 and spent $21,000 since April.
If the Democrats control the governor’s office, however, a good 25 percent of the money now flowing to the Republican Party could come to them. That can help the Democrats fund more legislative races and better candidates to slowly mount a comeback after losing the Legislature in the 1990s.
Money doesn’t buy an election. But it puts a major down payment on a victory.
In a state as big as Florida, cash is a must to pay for TV commercials across 10 media markets. There’s a direct correlation between ad spending and poll numbers.