Rick Scott Has Pulled Even With Charlie Crist by Spending Boatloads of Cash

Need more proof that spending dump trucks full of cash can win elections in America? Take a look at Florida's percolating governor's race, where Rick Scott -- yes, the same guy who has had trouble cracking 30 percent approval ratings for the past four years -- has suddenly pulled even with likely challenger Charlie Crist in several new polls.

What's changed? Has Scott suddenly started embracing issues important to voters like medical marijuana reform and green energy? Nah, he's just spending crazy amounts of money -- more than $13 million on TV ads just since November. And it's working like a charm.

The latest survey from Public Policy Polling this week found the governor's race is now a toss-up, with a 42 percent tie between Scott and Crist.

Amazingly, that result comes despite the fact that PPP found Scott is still wildly unpopular as a governor, with just a 39 percent approval rating.

How can this be? Simple: Scott has been carpet-bombing key markets like Tampa, Orlando, and West Palm with so many ads blasting Crist that an average viewer will have seen 100 of them in 2014, the Tampa Bay Times reports. And those ads have left voters equally skeptical of Crist, who clocks in PPP's polls with just a 32 percent favorable rating.

"Rick Scott's early ad blitz has taken a big toll on Charlie Crist's image in Florida," Dean Debnam, PPP's president, says in a release. "Although Scott himself remains unpopular, he's driven Crist's negatives high enough to make this race into a toss-up."

Other polls out this week confirm PPP's findings that Scott has dramatically tightened the race, with Survey USA finding Crist now leading just 44-40 and RealClearPolitics' average of recent polls clocking Crist with a two-point advantage.

Of course Crist has been banking huge money of his own, raking in more than $2 million last month alone. But he'll always be at a disadvantage to Scott, who brings his personal fortune to the table along with a strong fundraising cycle of his own, with the Miami Herald reporting this morning that the governor brought in $1.16 million in May to go with $3.1 million raised by the state GOP election committee.

This is America, after all, where cash in the bank is the most important election stat of all.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink