Voting for Charlie Crist…is it rational?

Editors Note: Dave Trotter the former Publisher of The Political Hurricane will be providing occasional articles for TFS. Mr. Trotter and myself have had some well documented differences of opinion and let me assure those who have been the subject of what they feel are personal attacks in the past from Mr. Trotter that sort of rhetoric will not be tolerated on this website and we will not publish vitriolic personalized attacks against anybody. Mr. Trotter’s main role here is to analyze polling data, voting trends and to give occasional commentary on subjects related to Florida and National politics. 

– Kartik Krishnaiyer


Since Charlie Crist announced that he was running for governor in Florida as a Democrat, his poll number have steadily declined. Even though he still holds a lead over Rick Scott, will the former governor be able to keep that lead? Looking at it on face value, Crist seems to still have the advantage. But the situation that he currently finds himself in might be the beginning of the unraveling of his campaign.

So what can happen in this race? Scholarly voting behavior models might explain how a Scott-Crist match up might play out. The campaign between Crist and Scott looks more likely to come down to something called the rational model of vote choice, which has one strand that argues a voter determines the cost-benefit of their vote, compared to traditional voting behavior models, which focus on other factors. So what does that mean?

Audiobooks at!

Traditional models, such as the Columbia and Michigan models, look at psychological, socioeconomic, partisanship and other factors that eventually lead to vote choice. Basically, most of the vote choice is determined well in advance of the actual act of casting a vote (though this process is changing with the creation of the Apartisan voter, a concept created by UC Irvine professor Russell Dalton, which I will discuss later in my review of his book). But the Florida election might not follow this patter, as north Florida Democrats tend to vote Republican, traditional Democrats are being asked to vote for a former Republican, and NPA voters consist of a large (and growing) chunk of Florida voters. Therefore, traditional socio-psychological models can almost be thrown out in relation to vote choice in Florida.

But looking at the governors race, something known as the rational choice model on voting behavior might explain how this race will turn out. Particular to this case is what is called the “Downs paradox”, which explains that rational and self-interested voters will weight up the options as to whether the cost of voting will exceed the benefits of the expected outcome of that vote. For example, an African-American voter might wait in excess of five hours to vote for Barack Obama while, on the other hand, they did not bother to vote for John Kerry. The benefit of having an African-American president makes waiting in line a rational choice, because that voter is self-interested in seeing the first African-American president.

So, let’s take this concept and apply it to the governors race in Florida. It is easy to say that in order for Charlie Crist to win, he will require a number of liberal voters to vote for him on election day. If liberal voters perceive Crist as a new DINO, then a number of liberal voters might not find it rational for them to cast their ballot for him. Basically, with the exception of removing Scott, there is no benefit in voting for Charlie Crist if someone is a liberal voter.

Another concept in rational voting is the idea of “can the candidate win”. If a voter feels that a candidate cannot win, they might abstain from casting their vote. When Crist was up by 15% early in this contest, many Rick Scott voters probably found themselves in this boat. But as the numbers tighten up, turning out to vote for Rick Scott is no longer becoming an irrational choice. If the race is even somewhat close, Republicans will find it rational to wait in line to vote for Rick Scott and against Charlie Crist for his perceived disloyalty to the GOP. Therefore, just the closing the poll numbers in the last month has already revitalized the Scott campaign.

This is where the problem lies for Charlie Crist. Very few Democratic voters support a Crist Administration, but instead want to see the end of the Scott Administration. Rick Scott voters have a rational reason to vote for him (he supports most of their issues and can win the election). Therefore, the likelihood of Scott supporters to show up on election day is high. But Crist supporters lack this rationality. While they might turn out to vote because they do not like Rick Scott, they are not entirely sure that Charlie Crist will support their views once elected. Therefore, their support for him is lukewarm. As the race gets closer in the polls, liberal voters might abstain as they see no clear difference between the two candidates. Therefore, the cost of their vote might exceed the expected benefits for progressive voters. Basically, their second-guessing will keep them home on election day, unless they feel it is their “duty” to vote.

A possible case study for this might be the 2010 Senate election. When Crist announced that he would run as an independent, he was beating Marco Rubio. But as the campaign wore on, Crist’s numbers went down and Rubio’s went up. Rubio supporters’ benefits were worth the cost of voting for Rubio. But the cost of voting “for” Crist exceeded any expected benefits. Basically, voters didn’t see any benefit in voting for Crist, and therefore did not vote for him.

The 2010 election also points out another important factor. The 20% of those who voted for Kendrick Meek are the ones that Crist will have to convince. He will have to sell them on the fact that voting for Crist is a rational choice. If Crist campaigns on being the alternative to Rick Scott, he is not convincing voters that he is a clear alternative. As a result, he is not convincing these voters that he is a rational choice. But in all fairness to the Crist campaign, he is trying to win over voters by touting a progressive agenda. But his new agenda can be compared to his past record. Therefore, even with his past, he is moving in the right, and only logical, direction. The question is whether the voters will believe him. The only way for Crist to win is to sell himself. The second this becomes the “lesser of two evils” race, Scott has the strong advantage.

Crist’s largest obstacle is voter abstention. Yes, people might be saying that they support him in the polls. But if that support is lukewarm and the costs far exceed the benefits, many possible Crist voters will stay home. Crist needs to convince the 20% who voted for Meek that “he is one of them”. Saying you are a Democrat is one thing, proving it is something entirely different.


  1. for better or worse, Crist will win the election.


  2. The 20% who voted for Kendrick Meek will never vote for Charlie Crist. I don’t see Meek endorsing Crist either. 2010 was not that long ago.


  3. What about Nan Rich, a true liberal democrat.


  4. Factor in Adam Putnam. The GOP will go all out for Scott in order to pave the way for a Putnam gubernatorial win in 2018.


  5. Mr. Trotter, While your analysis of the governors race is well reasoned, I’m afraid you’ve put the cart before the horse. You have been listening to corporate media and have neglected to factor in the democratic primary. Democratic progressives have a true blue leader in the badly overlooked but highly qualified Senator Nan Rich. If anyone has the balls to poll likely democratic primary voters I believe Nan is closing in on Charlie and the voters will have a real choice for governor. I think the people of Florida now realize that their state has been going to the highest bidder for far too long and they are “mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore.” Wake up and smell the perfume. Florida will not be bought in 2014 and we will have our first woman governor. Yes my friends NAN can and will lead us out of darkness of corruption and into the light. ” Let the sun shine, let the sunshine in………….”


  6. Paige Brennan · ·

    Mr. Trotter, you should be ashamed! Not one mention of the true democratic candidate! Nan Rich is the best and most logical choice to these two money hungry republicans! Yes, I said republicans! While Crist says he is now a democrat he is still a puppet for the GOP! Nan may not have the money they have but she has what we need! Common sense for the good of the people and a strong will to fix what those guys have broken! If you are going to write about the candidates then you should be giving people a fair shake and mention all of them! You should get to know your candidates, Mr. Trotter! It might add some credibility to your articles!


  7. I think some of you are confusing this piece as a rhetorical article, which it isn’t. I am not trying to argue that this person or that person is best.

    This is using an academic voting behavior model to a certain case study. Therefore, the rhetoric by both Paige and Joe does not apply. I am not trying to “rally the troops” by using rhetoric to do cheerleading. What I am doing is applying academia to a possible match up. Most, if not all, of my articles on here are going to look at voting behavior by using academic sources, such as Downs, Lewis-Beck, Lazarsfeld, The Michigan Model, and other highly respected academic authors of voting behavior. True, I might question certain tactics, but it is in no way used to “rally” anyone. My piece today regarding unskewed polling isn’t meant to “rally” anyone, but show the true inaccuracies in current GOP polling methods. Yes, I try to make it a little entertaining, but the article is to “explain” GOP methodology, not to “rally” people.

    So for those of you who are reading my articles expecting a “let’s charge Little Round Top” moment, you might be disappointed.


    1. Dear Mr. Trotter, Bullshit….. You can’t defend your lack of mentioning the primary with academic voting behavior crap. That dog don’t hunt anymore. You need to do some serious research and give me a call. This primary election is up for grabs and Nan’s got the bull by the balls.


      1. What is the logic behind your reasoning? You are giving me a bunch of rhetoric but not nothing in the way of substance. You are just saying “Nan is going to win” without anything to back it up except your confidence. I have a feeling you don’t know who Anthony Downs is, or knew what the Downs Paradox was, before I wrote this article, much less the central concepts of even the most cited works of Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes. If you would like to debate me, I am open. Let’s make this a public podcast debate to test your knowledge of voter behavior against mine. “Giving you a call” is the easy way out 🙂

        Besides that, I don’t know if you actually read my article. If you did, then you might realized I am actually arguing your side. So I am extremely puzzled.

        In regards to my research, I do not do decision-based fact-making, but fact-based decision making. The answers are not always what you want them to be. To say otherwise is a disservice.


  8. I’d argue the 20% Kendrick Meek voters are party faithful — as, it’s not like Meek brought many voters out on his own. They’d vote for a tuna sandwich before voting for Scott.


    1. Actually, I don’t argue this point. I think that an overwhelming majority of Meek supporters would vote for Crist over Scott. I think an overwhelming majority of Rich voters would vote for Crist over Scott. The question here, and the topic of this article, is not about who they will vote for, but instead about whether they will turn out to vote. 98% of former Meek voters might vote for Crist in the general, but if their turnout is only 30% (because the cost outweighs the benefit), then who they vote for doesn’t matter. This is an article about turnout (specifically non-voting), not vote choice.


  9. Paige Brennan · ·

    Mr. Trotter, what I had to say is not rhetoric. I simply said that if you are going to talk about the candidates you should inform voters of ALL of them. You are not giving your readers the full picture! I also said Nan has what it takes to fix Florida! How is that rhetoric? It seems to me that whenever someone goes on the defense politically they cry rhetoric! I would like you to explain that remark. And yes, I am well aware that Crist could win but voters are not given a fair chance if they don’t know all of the players. Crist is nothing but a puppet for the GOP! People don’t need more of the same! If the media can’t tell people about all of the candidates then this state is screwed!


    1. Definition of rhetoric from Merriam-Webster: the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people.

      “Nan has what it takes to win Florida” – you are not neutral and are basing this purely on your opinion with no evidence. Rhetoric. Same goes with most of the statements that you make. I am not saying that they are wrong (as I strongly support Rich over Crist, and endorsed her back in March of 2013), I am just saying they are opinion-based.

      My job on here is not to inform other people of other candidates or to carry a certain flag. I am here to give a certain analysis based on empirical research conducted in the political sciences. Whether I mention Nan Rich or not does not take away from the empirical argument that I am putting forward. My overall argument is that, when applied to the Downs Paradox, Crist might be in trouble with voters who see costs outweighing benefits. I don’t see how Nan Rich fits into this discussion.

      Not every result that comes out will be one you agree with. Instead of attacking everything that you don’t think is right, you should learn from it.


      1. Dave, Now that you’ve admitted to your preference for Nan I can no longer debate you. Your knowledge of traditional polling and your academic superiority is not in question. I took 1 course in political science and decided the profession was not for me. You see it is highly unusual to find a politician who is consistent with their core values and isn’t in the pockets of greedy corporations and special interests. Nan Rich is the type of person that should be the governor and no pollster or pundit can measure what is in a persons heart. The only poll that matters is the one that’s taken on election day. Ask Karl Rove what happened to Mitt Romney. Polls and Charlie Crist are alike. They often flip flop.


  10. […] is all explained in the Downs Paradox, which I wrote about earlier this year. According to this theory, voters are self-interested people […]


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