LAKE MARY, Fla. — In most cases it’s like father, like son for Dan and Scot Robertson.
They both live in Longwood, a city about 15 miles northeast of Orlando. Both make their living as insurance brokers.
But there was a political split during the summer.
Scot Robertson, 39, who describes himself as “very conservative,” supported Naples businessman Rick Scott in the race to be Florida’s next governor. Dan Robertson, 63, who is “middle of the road” politically, supported the ill-fated campaign of Scott’s opponent, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the Republican primary.
On Thursday afternoon, father and son stood at the back of a patio at Liam Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub in Lake Mary to hear Scott address the hundreds of supporters gathered outside. For Dan Robertson, switching his allegiance from McCollum to Scott wasn’t difficult — he was never particularly passionate about McCollum anyway.
“I just thought he had a better shot at beating (Democratic candidate) Alex Sink,” Dan Robertson said.
With Election Day only five days away, Scott is going to need the support of hundreds of thousands of McCollum’s former supporters like Dan Robertson to beat Sink in a race that seems to be coming down to the wire.
Two polls released Thursday, Quinnipiac University and Mason-Dixon, showed Sink with small leads of 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. A Rasmussen survey also released Thursday showed Scott up by 3 percent.
After a bruising primary fight, some devout McCollum supporters vowed they could never support Scott in the general election. McCollum himself said he had “serious questions” about Scott’s character, integrity and honesty.
It was just a week ago that McCollum eventually endorsed Scott, but it wasn’t like he shouted it from the mountaintops. Instead, McCollum released a statement on his website early on a Friday evening – where news goes to die.
As the governor’s race enters its final days, the Daily News is on the road with the Alex Sink and Rick Scott campaigns. This is the final story in a series of reports on Scott’s tour of Florida. Sink’s campaign trip was reported on last week. For more election coverage, return to naplesnews.com and pick up the Daily News now through Tuesday.
A Naples Daily News-Zogby poll taken in mid-October showed that nearly 23 percent of self-described conservatives planned to vote for Sink, more than twice the percentage of self-described liberals who planned to vote for Scott.
Sink was winning moderates 62 percent to 22 percent, according to the poll, but Republicans seem to be more enthusiastic, which could mean they’re more likely to show up at the polls.
Most of the people who attended events along Scott’s bus tour this week appeared to be die-hards who supported him in the primary. But looking around the crowds, there were plenty of former McCollum supporters milling around. They may not be as raucous, but they’re there.
“I’m growing. I’m slowly going to Rick Scott,” said Richard Shipp, 79, a former McCollum supporter who lives in a retirement community in Hernando County. “It’s been a process. With all the mud-slinging you hear, you have to go in and find the real facts.”
The allegations of record Medicare fraud at Scott’s former hospital company, Columbia/HCA, and his alleged deception during subsequent depositions is still a concern for some former McCollum supporters who are now leaning his way. Others seem to have made peace, and now believe the allegations have been blown out of proportion.
Debbie Chastaine, 56, a former McCollum supporter who attended a Scott event in Vero Beach on Thursday morning, said she would have liked Scott to do more to explain the allegations.
“You don’t want to be defensive, but on the other hand, you have to defend yourself,” Chastaine said. “We were all laughing when he said ‘I learned a lesson.’ Maybe he should have explained it better.”
Supporting Scott is a decision about principles for Stuart retirees Susan Auld, 70, and her husband, John Auld, 70, who both supported McCollum. They attended a Scott event in Stuart on Tuesday so they could meet him.
Despite the allegations against Scott, they are voting for him because he says he stands for the same principles they do, Susan Auld said.
“You’re looking at (the accusations) and you’re looking at your principles. I’m going with my principles,” Susan Auld said. “It would be great if that were not there, but it’s better than taking a chance on someone who does not agree with me at all.”
Since his primary victory, Scott has been working to mend fences with Republicans who didn’t initially support him. If he wins Tuesday, he also will be tasked with trying to bring together an intensely divided state.
“I think people want me to succeed,” Scott said. “They know their success is going to be tied to my success. If I can do what I believe I can do, they’re going to do fine.”
It’s “show me” versus a “tell me.” Scott knows that if he’s successful in turning around Florida’s economy, it will go a long way in building support among the doubters.
“For everybody in the state, whether you’re a Democrat, independent or Republican, the most important thing is the economy,” Scott said. “It’s the economy. It’s jobs. And so, I’m going to do everything I can, and it’s going to help everybody.”
OTHER RECENT DAILY NEWS COVERAGE OF THE GOVERNOR'S RACE
- STAFF PHOTOS: Photos of the 2010 Elections
- READER PHOTOS: Submit your Election 2010 photos
- VIDEOS: Videos about the 2010 Elections
- PRECINCTS: An interactive map of early voting sites in Collier and Lee counties
- CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS: Editorial Board video interviews with Florida candidates
- ENDORSEMENTS: Daily News endorsements for the 2010 Elections
- TWITTER: Latest tweets from Florida candidates
- SPECIAL SECTION: For candidate video interviews, map of polling places, photos and more stories about the 2010 elections.