Sunshine State's Economy Main Issue in Gov.'s Race

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Republicans are not only expecting to make gains on the federal level on Election Day, Nov. 2, they're hoping to win many governor's seats as well.

In Florida, the race is a familiar story this election year. A previously unknown Tea Party favorite is giving the state's chief financial officer a real run for the top spot.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and political newcomer Rick Scott is neck-and-neck with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink for the state's top office. Many have said the reason for the close race is because political outsiders are furious insiders have failed to improve Florida's dire economy.

"I think that there is anger among the American people right now that one Democratic pollster described as 'pre-revolutionary,'" said John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council.

"They're so disgusted with politics as usual and with incumbents," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor of the University of South Florida.

Scott's popular with the Tea Party because he believes what they believe. CBN News asked him to describe an America where all the Tea Party candidates have won.

"We would get our economy going," Scott said. "I mean it's ridiculous what's happened to our economy. All that has been caused by the government. Too much spending."

"They're big in spending," said Eileen Blackmer, a Tea Party member. "They're spend, spend, spend and borrow, borrow, borrow."

"We wouldn't have deficits," Scott said. "Our taxes would be reduced. We would follow the Constitution."

These are favorite Tea Party themes.

"Cutting back the size of government, making government efficient, getting tough on immigration," said conservative commentator Larry Thornberry.

However, Sink is not a typical politician. Before her career in government, she excelled to top ranks in the banking industry.

"She went up faster than, I think, any female in the country in the banking system," said Terry Watson, a Democratic activist.

Democrat activists are pushing her to the party faithful during the campaign.

"If you're a Democrat, you're supposed to be voting for your Democrats," said Cynthia Wilson, a union activist.

Sink is also attracting many conservative Republicans.

"Particularly those in the business community, because she was a former CEO," MacManus said.

Also, Sink talks pro-business.

"When I am the governor, I'm going to wake up everyday and ask for a list of companies for me to call to recruit to come to Florida," she said.

Sink, however, is having issues recruiting support form pro-family and pro-life leaders.

"I spent two hours interviewing Rick Scott on 25 key issues," said Stamberger. "He's going to be very strong on life, marriage, family and religious liberty issues."

Scott said his faith is central to his life, and helps him in what's turned out to be a bruising, take-no-prisoners campaign.

"It helps me," Scott said. "I don't know how you could run for office if you didn't believe in a Supreme Being, in my case, Jesus Christ. But it's absolutely very important to me."

"People really understand that we need a pro-life governor," said Carrie Eisnaugle of Florida Right to Life.

"We had more pro-life candidates seek our endorsement and get involved in the process and return our questionnaire and call us for personal interviews than in any year prior," she added.

Scott continues to label Sink as "an Obama liberal."

"Scott is busily trying to wrap Obama around her," Thornberry said.

"Is that a negative thing?" asked Mitch Mallett, host of "The Practical Liberal" radio show. "I don't think that's a negative thing. It's a positive thing."

In a time of such economic turmoil, how Florida voters feel about each candidate could determine who ends up in power.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.