Two years ago, nobody would have dreamed that Rick Scott, the multimillionaire political outsider crusading against Obamacare, would end up heading into a re-election campaign looking like the sort of pragmatic, moderate Republican tea party activists loathe.
But thats where Scott has awkwardly positioned himself as another politician without clear convictions.
The controversial former healthcare executive launched his political career on fighting the Affordable Care Act, only to jump on board Wednesday and call for a dramatic expansion of Medicaid in Florida.
Likewise he promised to crack down on illegal immigrants on the campaign trail, but he has done nothing in office. Candidate Scott vowed to shrink state government, and indeed his first budget unveiled at a tea party gathering included dramatic cuts to education.
Today? He wants to give every teacher a raise and boasts of how much money he spends on schools.
I can tell you what his ideology is: getting re-elected, scoffed John Long, chairman of the Tea Party of Florida, a former Scott supporter now working to recruit a dependable fiscal conservative to challenge Scott in a 2014 primary. He spent a lot of money to get elected, and I dont think he got elected with the intention to be a one-term wonder. To prove it, hes alienated the very people who got him elected in the first place.
With his Medicaid decision this week, Scott officially and forever cast off his image as a tea party standard-bearer. Just glance at most of the recent comments on his Facebook page if you have doubts.
Agreeing to expand Medicaid in Florida is your Charlie Christ hugs Obama moment. Very disappointed in your decision ... Be proud to call yourself a RINO (Republican in Name Only), wrote Jackie Soler-Gonzalez.
First the SunRail [an Orlando commuter rail project], now Obamacare. Seems you are not standing firm on the topics that got you voted in sir. ... Thank you for showing me I cant believe in anyone in politics, wrote Leslie Smith.
Scott is the seventh Republican governor to support the federal-driven expansion of Medicaid. But Scott also is a special case, having spent millions of dollars of his own fortune fighting the Affordable Care Act and launching his own campaign for governor attacking Obamacare at every opportunity.
This is going to be devastating for patients, devastating for taxpayers. Its going to be the biggest job-killer ever, Scott said on Fox News after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law. Were not going to implement Obamacare in Florida. Were not going to expand Medicaid, because were going to do the right thing.
Nothing like a Barack Obama Florida victory, abysmal poll numbers, a diminished tea party and a looming re-election campaign to concentrate the mind.
Statewide elections in Florida are usually won in the moderate middle, not the hard right or left, and Scott is now lunging as fast as he can toward the center.
Maybe soon hell become an advocate for high-speed rail, who knows? Republican-turned-Democratic former Gov. Charlie Crist quipped to the Florida Current Thursday. Theres quite a metamorphosis going on, and I dont think its fooling anybody.
The question is: Where is the governors base now? What base is he shooting for? I dont know, added state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, suggesting that Scott had moved too far to the left with his Medicaid decision and a proposal to give $2,500 raises to Florida teachers.