TALLAHASSEE -- Eighteen months into his first political job, Gov. Rick Scott has mastered one thing: the art of the perpetual campaign.
He has a political consultant and media strategist on retainer and speed dial. The Republican Party has run statewide television ads and hired a company to regularly update his Facebook page. He has warmed to the media, become adept at his talking points, learned to deflect tough questions and passed the most important test in Florida politics: Showing that he can raise money for his reelection, at $3.7 million so far.
The former health care CEO is still awkward on camera, so his advisors have steered him to friendly conservative talk-radio shows where he spends many early mornings as a regular call-in guest. The result: He has polished his patter.
We know there are at least 100 non citizens registered to vote and at least 50 of them voted in past elections, Scott succinctly told Bill Bennett June 14 on Town Hall Radio about the results of his push to purge non citizens from the voting rolls. Thats a crime!
The issue earned him face time on network television shows and won the support of 60 percent of Florida voters, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.
But every campaign must run on a record, and thats where the governors carefully crafted image gets wobbly.
Scott has stopped touting the states job creation and instead brags that weve had the biggest drop in unemployment of any state in the last 18 months.
The statement implies that Floridians have gone back to work at faster pace than the rest of the nation, but the states top economists note that 75 percent of the drop is due to people dropping out of the labor force and who are no longer counted among the unemployed.
Other contradictions abound. The governor vowed to make education a priority, then signed the state budget that cut $300 million from universities and included a spending plan that assumed a 15 percent tuition increase and the creation of a 12th university. Last week he then urged the Board of Governors to make Florida Number 1 in affordability and reject the tuition hikes. They didnt.
The governor has promised to keep the cost of living down for Floridians but has accepted $250,000 in campaign cash from Florida Power & Light, which wants to raise electric rates for its 4.5 million customers.
Scott campaigned on being a Tallahassee outsider but supporters say he does not like being the enforcer. When a series of Herald/Times reports detailed how Scotts second chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, steered contracts and jobs to friends, the governor called him into his office and asked him to resign earlier than planned.
He kept MacNamara on the job until July 1 and when the governor left the country and spent a month touring the state, MacNamaras deputy told the Department of Juvenile Justice to give another company a contract advantage. The connection? The lobbyist for the company was close friends with MacNamaras former boss, Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
Everythings a learning curve and he has had to be a quick learner, said Tony Fabrizio, the governors political consultant and pollster.
Scott, 59, has indicated he has been willing to change his political tune on some of the issues he embraced before having all the facts. He campaigned on a promise to require private employers to use the federal E-verify system to validate immigration status, for example, a position that is threatening to Floridas powerful agricultural industries. This month, Scott backed off that campaign pledge.