Florida Races Become a Billionaire Boys’ Club

The great state of Florida happens to have not one but two self-financed billionaire political novices running in primaries for top offices this year. Both are challenging veteran politicians with long histories in the state, and according to a new Quinnipiac poll, both have a double-digit lead over their opponents.

On the Democratic side, billionaire Jeff Greene, who made much of his fortune in credit default swaps, is leading Rep. Kendrick Meek in the Senate primary. In the Republican governor’s primary, Rick Scott, former head of Columbia/HCA and financier/spokesman for the anti-health care reform group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, has for weeks held onto his lead against State Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Democratic Senate primary
Quinnipiac (7/22-27)
Jeff Greene 33
Kendrick Meek 23
Maurice Ferre 4
Someone else 1
Wouldn’t vote 3
DK/NA 35

Republican Governor primary
Quinnipiac (7/22-27)
Rick Scott 43
Bill McCollum 32*
Someone else 2
DK/NA 23

This is an impressive display of the importance of money in primary campaigns in large states. Until recently, neither billionaire was actively involved politically or well known in Florida. They both have little to no support from the established parties. Yet, being willing and able to flood Florida’s many expensive media markets with millions of dollars in campaign ads has so far paid off well for Scott and Greene. In the past month, Greene has been able to surge past Meek after being effectively tied in June.

While polling of the entire Senate field has both Greene and Meek in the teens, indicating either would be a long shot in the general election, the winners of the August 24 primary could still have a large impact. The Senate race is going to be a three-way competition among Republican Marco Rubio, the newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist and the winner of the Democratic primary. Since Crist is currently pulling a lot of his support from the left, his success may depend on how relatively successful the Democrat is, even if that Democrat comes in third.

[correction: the numbers had been transcribed incorrectly but not reflex the finds of the poll]

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