It’s been years since the swing state of Florida was a reliably red state or a blue state. But with voters rejecting weirdly permatanned former Governor Charlie Crist in a second consecutive statewide election, it certainly isn't an orange state, either.
The narrow win of the incumbent Governor over the unnaturally-hued Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist isn’t a victory for ideology or a sign of a permanent partisan realignment in the Sunshine State. Instead, it’s a personal victory for Scott, who was able to return to the governor’s mansion despite being personally unpopular.
The campaign had been fought over a variety of issues---both serious, like Scott’s opposition to expanding Medicaid in Florida, and frivolous, like a nearly-canceled debate between the two nearly canceled over Crist bringing a fan on stage. But, at the end of the race, the campaign ended up as a herky-jerky scramble between two deeply awkward men with profound flaws as candidates.
Scott, a former hospital CEO whose company was fined over $1.7 billion by the federal government over a massive Medicare fraud scheme, had eked out a victory in 2010 in a Republican wave, relying heavily on his own personal wealth. His good will with Floridians evaporated quickly with his support for strict voter ID regulation and his opposition to Medicaid expansion. Scott made matters worse when he pushed back against environmental protections to the Everglades supported by Jeb Bush; his record in office was labeled an environmental disaster by the Tampa Bay Tribune's editorial board.
Crist, for his part, was viewed even by many supporters as an amoral professional politician, uninterested in any ideology or political party save his own personal advancement. Butterflies emerging from cocoons underwent metamorphoses far less dramatic than the political one Crist underwent in the past four years. Crist, who was once a pro-life and anti-gay marriage Republican, now claims to be a socially liberal Democrat who supported a woman's right to choose and same-sex unions.
Stuck trying to choose between the lesser of two evils, Florida voters narrowly backed the socially distant Republican who bore a resemblance to Skeletor than warm, sociable orange-colored Democrat of convenience.
The race though will have far more profound consequences than simply deciding which weird Floridian has to live in Tallahassee for four more years. With Scott in the statehouse, it will give Republicans a significant advantage in the Sunshine State in 2016 as they will be able to control the electoral machinery there. And as elections like 2000’s Bush-v-Gore show, sometimes the Florida Man in charge of those gears gets to pick the next President.