By: - August 6, 2018 2:38 pm

Two heavyweight national publications – the New York Times and Talking Points Memo – are drilling down on the Rick Scott-Bill Nelson race for the U.S. Senate, calling it among the most important – and expensive – in America.

Some key questions: Will Scott’s buddy-buddy relationship with President Trump hurt him or help him? And will Nelson’s low-key style – the New York Times calls him “a gentlemanly product of an earlier Florida and a different Democratic Party” – be enough to win him re-election?

“After 18 years in office, Mr. Nelson remains less known than his opponent,” the Times writes, adding that the uber-weatlhy Scott’s big-bucks ad buys are raising his profile among voters.

The upshot of both articles: not only is the race is likely to be close (“A tight race in a state where major elections are often decided by a single percentage point,” the Times writes,) but it may hinge on Democratic turnout and outreach to Hispanics. Scott is putting a lot of energy into wooing Hispanic voters, the national publications say, but could be hurt by his association with Trump and the president’s anti-immigration policies.

Another key metric for the race is health care and Trump’s cutbacks, including offering cheap health insurance (“Trumpcare”) plans that no longer cover pre-existing conditions – a coverage guarantee that voters really want.

In the Times story, Democratic voters say they want Nelson to get bolder.

“Take off the kid gloves,” outdoor writer and fishing guide Mike Conner says to Nelson at a constituent meeting the Times attended. “You need to do it soon.”

Talking Points Memo says the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority Political Action Committee is set to spend $23 million on ads for Nelson closer to the election – a third of its total national ad budget and “a sign of the supreme importance the group is putting on holding his seat.”

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.