Only 38 percent of Florida voters approved of Scotts performance in a January Quinnipiac poll. His recent policy reversals may have burned bridges with the last sliver of the electorate that had been enthusiastic about him. If theres anybody out there that was even remotely considering challenging him in a primary, Im sure theyre getting phone calls today, said Matt Nye, a tea party leader in Brevard County. This is going to cost him dearly in his re-election.
In 2010, Scott spent more than $73 million of his own money to narrowly beat Democrat Alex Sink, and his potential to write more hefty checks in 2014 is likely to scare off most high-profile prospective challengers. But his moves to the middle have opened the door for someone from the right who could seriously damage Scott ahead of the general election.
They would not deny him the nomination, but they would make it more difficult for him in the general election, said Republican strategist J.M. Mac Stipanovich, who ran Republican Gov. Bob Martinezs 1990 re-election campaign. That year, Marlene Woodson-Howard won 20 percent of the GOP primary vote.
Tom Gaitens, another Republican activist in Hillsborough County, agreed Scott faces real danger of tea party conservatives sitting out the next election.
Without the base, a conservative Republican is doomed. Im actually wondering if this is the first step in a decision not to run for re-election because it just doesnt make sense to spit in the face of people who stood with you, Gaitens said.
Ironically, the outsider-conservative who campaigned against the party establishment now is butting heads with establishment GOP leaders staking out more conservative positions.
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, remains skeptical of the Medicaid expansion, and said that former Gov. Jeb Bush advised against the expansion during a recent private meeting with lawmakers.
When I first heard he [Scott] was considering it, I was surprised, Weatherford said.
Former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who launched the lawsuit to overturn the health law and whom Scott cast as too moderate in their 2010 gubernatorial primary campaign, said he was very disappointed by Scotts decision.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam dismissed Scotts suggestion that the state could sunset the Medicaid expansion after three years, when the federal government no longer pays 100 percent.
It is naive at best to think that you would enroll 1 million people in three years and then decide to walk away from the program, Putnam said. I think we all have an obligation to look beyond the window of our own time in public life and think about the long-term impact of these policies on Florida.
Herald/Times staff writers Katie Sanders and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Contact Adam C. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org