Adrian Wyllie, an IT consultant from Palm Harbor running for governor as a libertarian, has drawn attention for two reasons: First, a recent poll showed him with 9 percent of the vote -- significantly better than most third-party candidates manage to pull -- and second, pollsters say he could be a bigger problem for presumptive Democratic nominee Charlie Crist than from incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
You read that right: A libertarian might be hurting a Democrat’s chances, thanks in part to Ron Paul.
Wyllie said he’s been a registered libertarian for more than 20 years but didn’t really get active in politics until 2009. He served as chairman of Florida’s Libertarian Party for one term and supported Gary Johnson’s presidential bid before deciding to give candidacy a spin. And he’s been at it for a while; he formed his exploratory committee in October 2012 and declared his candidacy in January 2013. In the 20 months since, he said he’s driven 100,000 miles around the state ginning up support.
On top of that, he said he’s recruited more than 1,200 volunteers statewide, including county coordinators and flacks.
And many of the people helming his efforts are alumni of then-Rep. Paul's two presidential bids. Curt Schultz, who runs a marketing company called Super Brochure, was a Florida field coordinator for the Texas congressman's 2008 presidential bid and volunteered for Paul's 2012 bid. His company now does mailings for Wyllie's campaign, and he's the marketing director. And, per Wyllie, many of Paul's old county coordinators, precinct captains and regional coordinators are now helping him.
Schultz said the experience that he and others gained working for Paul’s presidential bid has been helpful for Wyllie’s campaign. Paul’s presidential bid functioned as a crash course for countless Floridians who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten involved in grassroots politicking. So many of the people who cut their teeth in 2008 and 2012 have taken their new skills to Team Wyllie.
The results are interesting. A Quinnipiac poll from July 23 showed Crist with a five-point lead in a head-to-head match-up against Scott. But when voters were asked to choose between Scott, Crist and Wyllie, Crist's lead basically vaporized, and 9 percent of voters indicated they would support the libertarian. Wyllie “gets his strongest support from independent voters who back Crist over Scott,” according to a press release from Quinnipiac.
The Quinnipiac numbers surprised many observers, but Wyllie said his campaign expected to those kind of results.
“We weren’t surprised at all,” he said. “If anything, we were surprised that it was a tad low.”
He added that his campaign’s internal polls — conducted by Schultz — show him with 15 to 16 percent of the vote. Schultz said volunteers have been calling 400 to 500 very likely voters across seven or eight counties for each poll. Schultz didn’t give further detail on the campaign’s polling methodology.
“People just don’t like them,” Schultz said of Crist and Scott. “You could almost put Bugs Bunny on there and people will vote for that name just because they don’t like the other two.”
For now, the campaign’s biggest problem is probably fundraising.
“We’ve only raised somewhere in the neighborhood of forty or fifty thousand dollars so far,” he said. “But, you know, in a way it’s a good thing, because we’re not seeing any special interest money, any corporate money with strings attached.”
Wyllie has scaled back his work to spend more time on the gubernatorial bid.
“Quite frankly, I’m losing a ton of money,” he said.
“Republicans and Democrats get into politics and they end up making a fortune,” he said. “Libertarians get into politics and we end up in the poorhouse,” he added with a chuckle.