2. He could lose. Conventional wisdom has it that Nelson would be a stronger candidate than Republican-turned-Democrat Crist to take on Scott, but conventional wisdom also held that Crist was a shoe-in for U.S. Senate in 2010. The truth is Nelson hasn’t seen a tough campaign in at least 12 years, is not nearly as strong on the trail as Crist and excites few voters.
A March Public Policy Polling poll found only 43 percent of Florida voters approved of Nelson’s performance and 40 percent disapproved. That’s not exactly a political titan, and in 2014 he won’t have President Obama on the ballot driving up turnout with the Democratic base.
“He’s got a ton, ton, ton of crappy votes [on controversial legislation], and we would light him on fire,” Republican consultant Rick Wilson of Tallahassee said of Nelson’s 40-year political career. “He’s the luckiest candidate on Earth when he gets to run against Katherine Harris or Connie Mack, but he won’t get a pass on that from Rick Scott.”
3. Grace Nelson. By all accounts, Nelson’s elegant wife of 40 years much prefers Washington to Tallahassee. Given the years Grace, 65, has spent at her husband’s side listening to chicken dinner speeches at Democratic receptions and the thousands of times she has had to beam as her husband described the view of Earth from the space shuttle, is it really fair to uproot her again for Tallahassee?
4. Age. There are no signs of health trouble for Nelson, unlike Chiles, who had undergone quadruple-bypass heart surgery five years before running for governor at age 60. Nelson’s face is conspicuously wrinkle-free at age 70, he exercises religiously and he carries nary an ounce of extra weight on him.
Still, taking office at 72, Nelson would be the oldest governor in Florida’s history. The job has been mainly for those in their 40s and 50s. Nelson barely campaigned in person across the state when challenged by Katherine Harris in 2006 and Connie Mack III in 2012; his campaign was mainly about raising money and airing TV ads.
Taking on a multi-millionaire incumbent governor, however, would likely require the kind of grueling schedule and regimen Nelson has not seen training for since the space shuttle Columbia in 1986.