WASHINGTON — Hurricane Michael has come and gone but the recovery effort is ongoing and could play a pivotal role in the highly competitive race for Florida's U.S. Senate seat.
Both candidates, Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen Bill Nelson (D), have temporarily suspended their campaign efforts to focus on recovery efforts just three weeks until the midterm election.
- U.S. Senate candidates suspend campaign for Michael recovery efforts
- Some experts say Scott's response could help tilt race in his favor
- RELATED: Hurricane Recovery Could be a Test for Candidates in Florida
“It does put a bit of a pause on things," said Kyle Kondik with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
"I would suspect by the time we get to Election Day, the candidates will be back in their usual rhythm of being candidates first, and officeholders second," he said.
Scott plans on deploying surrogates throughout the state to campaign on his behalf, his primary replacement, his wife Ann.
“I think spouses make excellent surrogates," said Alex Conant with Firehouse Strategies.
Conant, a former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio (R) Florida during his presidential run, admits the situation isn't ideal so close to an election.
“At the end of the day voters do want to hear directly from the candidate," Conant explained. "On every campaign I’ve ever worked on, we’ve wanted the candidate out there campaigning three weeks ahead of the election, but clearly there are more important things at stake right now.”
Over the last week, Florida’s chief executive has been given a platform across the airwaves. According to the Media Monitoring Website TVEyes, Scott’s name has been mentioned nearly 1,500 times more than Nelson in TV markets in Florida since the hurricane hit last Wednesday.
“Any campaign is trying to get attention and positive attention, and if Scott is indeed getting that, that’s something that is potentially helpful to his campaign," Kondik said.
While Nelson has been ahead very slightly in recent polls, there have not been any new polling results since the hurricane hit last week. Some experts believe the governor’s response to the storm could tilt the race in his favor.
“Clearly he has been in command. The state response so far has been everything one could hope for," Conant said.
However, some point out the disaster has forced the governor to focus on his current role instead of the job he’d like to have in November.
“Scott isn’t running for re-election, he’s running for a Senate seat and that scrambles the usual math there," Kondik said.
The governor released a new ad on Tuesday, touting his response to the storm.
As the battle to take political credit for the relief effort wages on, control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance.