The Florida gubernatorial election will be one of the closest elections in the country this year. Former Republican and former governor of Florida Charlie Crist is facing off against incumbent governor and still Republican Rick Scott. Crist converted to the Democratic Party soon after losing the Republican primary in 2010. According to the most recent Florida guernatorial poll released by Public Policy Polling, he holds a three point over Scott, 42-39 with the Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie getting 8 points. 11% of those polled are still undecided.
One of the factors in this election will certainly be Medicaid expansion. Thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts, the mandatory expansion of Medicaid to states that was originally called for in the Affordable Care Act, became voluntary. Red state governors eager to show their conservative credentials to their Republican friends stated unequivocal opposition to the Medicaid expansion. Florida Governor Rick Scott questioned the cost of Medicaid expansion for Florida when he went on Fox News to oppose the expansion. He went on to say that the expansion did not make any sense.
In February of 2013, Scott changed his position on the Medicaid expansion. He stated that he "could not, in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care." Scott claimed that the recent death of his mother helped change his opinion on the law. I would argue that Scott no longer saw denying Medicaid expansion as a political winner. After seeing Terry McAuliffe win in Virginia while being only slightly less slimy than Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli with his biggest policy objective being the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia, perhaps Scott and his political operatives perhaps saw a way to improve Scott's floundering favorables.
Of course, the poll numbers don't back me up on this. In January of 2013, Public Policy Polling found that Scott's favorability was 33/57. Scott trailed Crist by 14 points in the hypothetical matchup between the two. In March of 2013, just a few weeks after announcing that he now supported Medicaid expansion, Scott's favorabiliy rating was exactly the same at 33/57 and he trailed Crist by 12 points in a hypothetical match-up. In October of 2013, Scott still trailed Crist by 12 points. In January of 2014, Scott had gained 10 points on Crist and was only trailing by 2 points. Scott had picked up 22 points with Republicans in the three months between October and January accounting for all of the 10 points.
Now, it doesn't really matter, why he supports Medicaid expansion. Over three-fifths (61%) of Floridians supporting expanding Medicaid, according to the most recent poll by Public Policy Polling. That includes over two-thirds (68%) of independent Floridians and over a third of Republican Floridians (36%). Scott's gambit supporting the Medicaid expansion should see his favorability increase with independent voters and may help keep this race even closer. Scott's expansion of Medicaid is only a three-year agreement and will be reviewed after three years. Crist has announced that he is looking into issuing an executive order that would expand Medicaid for good.