McCollum’s race for governor’s office revs up in Daytona Beach, Cocoa

Bill McCollum exchanges a thumbs-up with a driver passing by his campaign stop in Cocoa, in Brevard County

Photo by LESLIE WILLIAMS HALE // Buy this photo

Bill McCollum exchanges a thumbs-up with a driver passing by his campaign stop in Cocoa, in Brevard County

— It’s a metaphor too good to ignore.

As if there weren’t enough signs that the race is on for the Republican nomination to the gubernatorial election, Attorney General Bill McCollum stopped in Daytona Beach on Friday to tour the NASCAR Experience and meet with a few supporters. The visit to the Daytona 500 was a brief stopover for McCollum’s statewide tour, which continues through Central Florida today, ending Sunday in Tampa.

McCollum spent most of Friday meeting with Republican faithful, including phone bank volunteers, who he thanked and urged their continued work to reach out to voters on a one-by-one basis. On Saturday, he visits early voting locations from The Villages near Orlando to St. Petersburg.

“I think what he’s doing right now is the key,” said state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, who has been campaigning with McCollum the past two days. “He doesn’t have $45 million. When you make the rounds like this, the local media come out -- that’s what we call earned media.”

McCollum’s stops on Friday reflected an effort to reach out to dedicated volunteers and supporters, encouraging them to help spread his message. From a Republican Executive Committee phone bank in Jacksonville Beach to a barbecue in Cocoa, he told supporters to keep making phone calls, keep spreading the word about him.

“It’s come down to the things you are doing,” he told about 60 supporters in Cocoa, located in Brevard County. “The sign-waving on corners, the calling people at the last minute: the grassroots efforts. We are surging ahead.”

McCollum’s campaign has been buoyed since Thursday by the results of a Mason-Dixon poll that showed McCollum with a lead over opponent Rick Scott, the big-spending, self-financed candidate from Naples who had been ahead in the polls since June.

“Good, old-fashioned campaigning still works,” Haridopolos said. “You’ve got to be willing to stand up in front of people and take questions.”

He was drawing a comparison with Scott, who has taken fire from critics in McCollum’s camp who say Scott has dodged debates and avoided direct questions, particularly from reporters. Scott declined interviews with newspaper editorial boards in the state, and as such has gotten no endorsements from a major newspaper.

“(McCollum is) going to have to make a lot of phone calls and knock on a lot of doors,” said Cherie Billings, a resident of Fernandina Beach, where McCollum started his day at a breakfast cafe. “It’s going to have to be more personal.”

She pointed to the latest McCollum television ad, in which the candidate stares squarely into the camera, urging voters to learn for themselves about his record and his opponent’s, and ends by saying he trusts Florida voters to make an informed decision.

It has to be more about the issues, and less about the attacks if McCollum is to win, said Steve Salaun, who heard McCollum speak in Jacksonville during his first campaign stop Thursday.

The Daily News is on the road for a week shadowing the campaign of Bill McCollum. The Daily News also has been shadowing the campaign of Rick Scott for a week. Watch naplesnews.com and the Daily News for daily reports and subsequent stories on these two GOP governor candidates who face off Aug. 24.

“Because of the attack ads, I don’t know what he stands for,” Salaun lamented before McCollum took the podium. “I want to hear more about what he will do to oppose the federal government on increasing the nation’s debt, increasing support for the unions, and on and on and on.”

At his campaign stops, McCollum has been doing just that, addressing his position on immigration, education, tax reduction and job creation.

“Many people tell me that the advertising in this campaign does not let them see the stands of the candidates on the issues,” McCollum said. “I hope the ads in the next couple of days talk about the issues and where I’m going to take the state as governor. If anything’s disappointing to me, it’s the inability of this campaign to talk about the issues that are important to voters.”

To be clear, McCollum is quick to assign blame to Scott for that. Since Scott took to the campaign trail in April, he has launched a litany of attack ads that paint McCollum as a desperate career politician, willing to change his stance on virtually any issue to get elected.

On the trail, volunteers and supporters say they stand behind McCollum because of his consistency.

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But he says he needs those very volunteers and supporters to help grab other voters.

“I don’t know that you can ever change the minds of the ones that have already decided,” he said. “I do know the polls have shown that many have said they can be persuaded otherwise.”

At the phone bank in Jacksonville Beach, volunteer Linda Segal said she called 325 absentee voters last week just trying to spread the gospel of McCollum.

“I think the (newspaper) endorsements, I think that’s one of the things that has turned the poll results around,” Segal said Friday. “I think that, and the fact that he is supported by the (statewide) Chamber of Commerce, that helps.”

Segal has been touting those endorsements to convince voters, to bring them over to McCollum’s side. With polls showing that nearly one-third of Republican voters are still undecided, these last-minute phone calls could prove to be the difference.

“He’s got some momentum now -- there’s ebbs and flows,” said House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, who came out to support McCollum in Daytona Beach on Friday.

He spoke -- appropriately -- against the backdrop of the NASCAR Experience.

“He’s always been a hard worker, but I’ve seen him ratchet it up in the last few weeks,’’ Cretful said. “It’s like a marathon in the last section. You’ve got to kick it in.”

Earlier

DAYTONA BEACH _ It’s a metaphor too good to ignore.

As if there weren’t enough signs that the race is on for the Republican nomination to the gubernatorial election, Attorney General Bill McCollum stopped off in Daytona Beach on Friday to tour the NASCAR Experience and meet briefly with supporters.

The visit to the Daytona 500 was a brief stopover along McCollum’s statewide tour, which continues through Central Florida today and into Saturday.

McCollum has been meeting mostly with Republican faithful today, including phone bank volunteers. He thanked them and urged their continued work to reach out to voters on a one-by-one basis.

“I think what he’s doing right now is the key,” said state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, who has been campaigning with McCollum the last two days. “He doesn’t have $45 million. When you make the rounds like this, the local media come out -- that’s what we call earned media.”

McCollum’s campaign has been buoyed since Thursday by the results of a Mason Dixon poll that showed McCollum with a lead over opponent Rick Scott, the big-spending, self-financed candidate from Naples who has been ahead in the polls since June.

Friday’s stop in Daytona Beach offered a bit of fun for the candidate, where he drove in a Daytona 500 simulator -- an oversized video game of the race track, with full-size cars that move with the curves of the track.

Next, McCollum heads to Cocoa for a barbecue before stopping for the night in The Villages, a community northwest of Orlando.

__ Connect with reporter Leslie Williams Hale at naplesnews.com/staff/leslie_hale

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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