Rick Scott delivered a surprise victory in Florida's bitter gubernatorial election Tuesday night, but that bitterness may have taken its toll.
Scott, as wealthy health care businessman, spent over $50 million (over $38 million of it his own) to wage war on Attorney General Bill McCollum and has been declared the winner by multiple news outlets, leading 46% to 43%. McCollum had led in most polls in the week leading up to Tuesday.
But the campaign got ugly well before Scott won, and his numbers have taken a hit because of it.
As Scott sought to associate McCollum with indicted former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, McCollum played up a fraud lawsuit against Solantic, a health care company Scott co-founded, calling on Scott to release a transcripts of a deposition he gave in the lawsuit. Scott's former company had previously paid out $1.7 billion in Medicare fines.
Have McCollum's attacks damaged Scott for the general election? It's hard to say.
While Public Policy Polling (the only pollster to get this primary election right) shows Republicans rating Scott 46% favorable and 33% unfavorable, Quinnipiac shows a quite different picture of 31% favorable and 40% unfavorable.
"Whichever [Republican candidate] emerges basically comes out pretty battered and bruised and pretty much toxic for the general," a Florida Democrat told me Tuesday night before Scott had sealed the win.
Scott trails Democrat Alex Sink in both Quinnipiac (33% to 29%) and Mason-Dixon (40% to 24%) polls; PPP hasn't released any general-election polling recently. Although animosity brewed between Scott and the Republican Party of Florida during this campaign, RPOF says it will support him as the Republican nominee. Independent candidate Bud Chiles polls in the teens as a wildcard.
Regardless of the bruises Scott may have endured, he has something every candidate lusts after: money. And lots of it. If he's willing to keep pouring his own money into the campaign, Scott will be able to blanket the state with TV, radio, and direct mail throughout the general election.
In some ways, Scott's general-election story is similar to Linda McMahon's in Connecticut: he's a candidate vulnerable to attacks, but his vast personal wealth still makes him intimidating to Democrats.
If the polling and Scott's money are any indication, the Florida governor's race will be close.