The latest from The Ledger:
“Hi, this is Newt Gingrich…Florida Democrats have created a fake Tea political party to split our conservative vote and keep (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi in power.
“The liberals’ fake Tea Party candidate for your district is Randy Wilkinson.
“Don’t be fooled by Wilkinson’s Tea Party label. Wilkinson is connected to liberal Congressman Allan Grayson’s Tea political party.”
Those words are part of a Gingrich automated phone call on behalf of Republican Dennis Ross that Ross sent to the phones of 33,000 likely Republican voters in the 12th Congressional District. Ross is running against Tea candidate Wilkinson and Democrat Lori Edwards.
The robocalls are the latest in a long stream of attacks against Wilkinson and the Florida TEA Party. The campaign has also included direct mail with largely the same accusations: the Florida TEA Party is a liberal concoction led by Alan Grayson.
Wilkinson, a long-time Polk County Commissioner known for his theatrical conservative monologues, could hardly be described as a liberal plant. The decision is one of math for the Ross campaign. Another article explains,
There hasn’t been a Democrat in the 12th Congressional District seat since the mid 1980s – but Lori Edwards could change that.
Political experts say it’s possible Tea Party candidate Randy Wilkinson could spoil the victory party of Republican Dennis Ross by getting enough votes to steer the election to Edwards…
Wilkinson said he’s always gotten a lot of Democratic votes, but none of the three political scientists interviewed by The Ledger think he’ll get more than small numbers of ballots from Democrats in this race, even if he is well known.
Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at Oklahoma, said Tea Party candidates attract conservatives and people who believe in small government, such as Libertarians.
“If Wilkinson gets his people out and he gets upwards of 20 percent of the vote,” Gaddie said, “he won’t win, but he could hurt Ross.”
Gaddie said he thinks the only way Wilkinson could win is to “get 34 percent and keep the other two even” at 33.
An Edwards internal from August had the Democrat leading Ross 35-32, with Wilkinson trailing at a strong 20%. More interesting from the poll was that Wilkinson had higher name recognition and favorable ratings than Ross.
The article above cites a much more recent Ross internal pegging the race at Ross 40, Edwards 31, and Wilkinson 18.
Ross is being saved by one thing: money. Edwards has had infamously weak fundraising totals all cycle, being upstaged only by the anemic warchest of Wilkinson. Ross has raised $810,000 to Edwards’ 345k and Wilkinson’s 41k.