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Politics / Issues

Governor's Race Could be Historic

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 The outcome in Florida's brutal and expensive race for governor is likely to be historic regardless of what happens on Election Day.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist have been locked in a tight race for weeks now that has been bitter and personal. Scott is trying to become the second GOP governor ever in state history to win re-election and it would be remarkable since his approval ratings have never been over 50 percent.

If Crist wins, it would mean a former governor taking back his old job after switching parties. Crist is running for governor four years after he gave up the office to mount an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

More than 3 million Floridians have already voted and millions more are expected to head to the polls on Tuesday.

During his final stops on the eve of the election, Scott boldly predicted that he would have a "big win" over Crist.

"We are going to kick Charlie's rear," Scott told a crowd of hundreds gathered at an outside square at the central Florida GOP stronghold of The Villages.

Scott's remarks were a reminder that the campaign ended the same way it began: Bitter and personal.

The final day began with Scott being confronted by a loud group of protesters chanting "too shady for the Sunshine State" and "it's not working," a dig at Scott's election motto. Inside a Greek restaurant, Scott ripped Crist as someone who "ran away" after one term as governor when the state's economy soured and the state's unemployment rate soared.

"We're going to win because we have passion, because it's about families," said Scott, who added later that Crist "has never been worried about families."

At a Monday night rally at the University of Central Florida, former President Bill Clinton criticized Scott for not accepting federal money to expand Medicaid and for cutting education spending. He said Scott is a divisive tea party governor and Crist showed during his time in office that he could work with both parties.

"You've got to elect your work together candidate. Not `Let's polarize everybody. If we dump enough negative ads on `em, we'll beat `em anyway," he said.

Polls released for weeks have essentially said the race is tied.

Tom Milton, an 80-year-old retiree and tea party activist at The Villages, said it was "unthinkable" to contemplate the chance of a Crist victory. He said he was still a strong backer of Scott even though he dropped some of his 2010 positions, including a push for a tough anti-immigration law similar to one passed in Arizona.

"He has a vision for the state," Milton said of Scott. "Charlie doesn't have any kind of vision that I can tell."

Alphia Stevenson, a child welfare worker in Broward County, said she had already voted for him.

"I liked him when he was a Republican. I knew he was a Democrat in disguise," Stevenson said. "Charlie Crist. He's the man. From Republican to independent and now he's on the real team-Democrat."