The difference between Florida democratic politicians and road kill? There are some things that even vultures are smart enough not to touch. Yet the media vultures of all political stripes have been circling the Florida 13th special congressional election looking for political carrion with national implications. As if.
The Sunshine State may be known for many things: Mickey Mouse, orange juice, golf courses, beaches, and the Earlybird Dinner Special, but Democratic politicians? Florida's Dem political stars you can count on one hand. Bill Nelson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alan Grayson, Ted Deutch and maybe newbie Patrick Murphy. Maybe. The party is floating reborn retread Republican Charlie Crist as gubernatorial candidate in 2014.
Alex Sink, who found herself 2 points shy of victory against Tea Party candidate David Jolly in a 49-47 split of the special election yesterday? That she got the 47 percent of the vote is a minor miracle.
Sink, few will recall, conveniently, was the "narrow" loser to current Governor Rick Scott in 2010. In that election, where a paltry 28 percent of apathetic Floridians voted in a mid-term, Scott beat Sink 49 - 48 percent.
The media lives in the nano-second. If we hop into Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine, Sink's "narrow" loss is not news. Having covered the candidate in action at events in South Florida during her run against Rick Scott in 2010, yesterday's results are no great surprise.
For state or national office, the Florida Democratic Party putting Ms. Sink up for office is like pulling one of the accountants out of the back room at a Cirque Du Soleil show and expecting him to sub for the muscular acrobat flying around the stage, arm wrapped in the red curtain.
Sink's time in the private sector was with NationsBank. Not surprisingly, she walks, talks, and speaks like a banker. Highly articulate and polished, she is a low-charisma candidate whose credentials for being lobbed at the voters by the Party have more to do with the old-school Florida machine politics which she and her husband Bill McBride, who passed away in 2012, played to get her these opportunities than it does with her star power, of which she has demonstrated precious little.
People were voting as much, if not more so, against Jolly and Scott than they were voting for Sink.
Sink's one political victory was her one term as Florida's Chief Financial Officer, where she beat out Republican Tom Lee 54-47 percent. With her banking background, it was a place where her style fit her to a T.
Not to pick on Ms. Sink. The failing is all that of the Dems party apparatus. She is not alone.
The Democratic candidate for Senate against Marco Rubio in 2010 was Kendrick Meek, who garnered 20.2 percent of the vote, a distant third to Charlie Crist, the independent, who landed 29.7 percent of the vote. Meek is another insider, whose mother Carrie was a heavyweight politico in the Democratic Party. Articulate and full of good ideas, he lacked both charisma and a solid organization. Former President Bill Clinton urged him to drop out of the race, in favor of Crist, but pride got the better of him and Tea Party darling Rubio took the seat.
Tuesday's election was no referendum on national politics. It was, however, another searing indictment of the Florida Democratic Party.
The Tea Party flourishes in purple state Florida largely because the Democrats spend more time promoting insular party picks than grooming top-notch candidates with broad enough appeal to get past that "narrow" defeat election.
There are some highly competent players in Florida's Democratic party. Grayson has developed a national media presence as a talking head that isn't being utilized well. Ron Klein, who suffered the indignity of losing to the ersatz Allen West, is an able leader and organizer and highly telegenic. Ted Deutch, congressman out of Florida's 21st District, is an effective legislator and has the rare distinction of handily beating back a Tea Party challenge in his last race. Of the limited crop of rising stars, Patrick Murphy, who beat West in 2012, may be another future star if he can secure another term.
So much of the talking head tongue-wagging will be misplaced today. Sink's loss was very much a Florida phenomenon of mediocrity begetting mediocrity. The only bellwether it may be is as a warning to Democratic Parties in other states who also field candidates without "curb appeal."
My shiny two.