Money, debates will be keys in Gov. race

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Millions of dollars in campaign ad spending, along with three debates that will show the candidates' contrasts side by side, will swing the Florida governor's race.

That's the case 10 News political analyst Rose Ferlita is making after the Florida primary election gave comfortable wins to former governor Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott.

See Also: Crist eyes Scott after primary win
MORE: Primary Election Results

The newly confirmed Democratic and Republican nominees have three gubernatorial debates coming up, starting in about six weeks.

But until then, Crist and Scott will be getting their message out by blanketing broadcasts nonstop with campaign ads. Expect most of them to be negative.

The New York Times is saying the Rick Scott-Charlie Crist race is expected to be the most expensive governor's race in the entire country.

And the ad spending is enormous already. The Washington Post estimates Rick Scott has already spent $20 million since March.

In her analysis, Ferlita says the situation is just right for Scott to raise tens of millions more in donations, following four straight terms of Republicans in the governor's mansion.

"For the last 16 years, if you've got a sitting incumbent governor, people are going to tend to throw a lot more money at that race," said Ferlita, a former Hillsborough County Commission and Tampa City Council member.

"Especially now. Now it's all going to funnel either to Crist or Scott. So I think you're going to see even many, many more dollars going Rick Scott's way."

The Washington Post figures in all, Rick Scott will spend perhaps more than $100 million... and Charlie Crist possibly $50 million.

And do not underestimate the influence of outsiders. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings give outside groups and their money more influence than ever over a decision that is supposed to be entirely up to Floridians to make.

Three debates are on the calendar, each about a week apart in October.

Ferlita says in those debates, the contrasts will clearly come out between Scott and Crist. Expect, she says, a battle between Crist's personal promise and charisma -- and Scott's resume and record.

For Crist, "His personal assets are exactly what it is -- personal assets. He's charming. You like Charlie. You tend to trust people when you like them. And that's going to come across with Charlie Crist," Ferlita said.

"With Rick Scott… he's going to tout his leadership instead. His leadership that got this state through a lot of economic problems. And a lot of those economic problems are going to be things that he's going to blame Crist for."

In debates, moderators will actually be able to fact-check the candidates' claims. That could give some balance to the back-and-forth biting we've seen so far in their political commercials.

During the campaign, you can check 10 News partner PolitiFact Florida for Truth-O-Meter ratings on statements related to Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

Crist actually agreed to take part in more debates, including one here in Tampa Bay. It would have been sponsored by 10 News, the Tampa Bay Times, and the University of South Florida.

But that event was canceled after Governor Scott declined to take part in the debate. He limited himself to just three debates.

Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie will also be a factor in the race for governor, but he may not be a factor in the major areas of money and debates.

Financial reports show Wyllie trailing the major party candidates dramatically in donations.

Wyllie's campaign has announced he will be included in one of the three scheduled governor debates, on Oct. 15 at Broward College. It's not clear whether the other two debates' sponsors will decide to include him.


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