“A lot of politicians and the political class think there was a reset with Obama,” said Mark Cross, an early tea party leader in Central Florida. “But voters remember your record.”
Cross added that he thought both Putnam and Scott were, “for the most part, doing a good job.”
Scott disappointed political elites and tea party members with his Medicaid reversal. But Putnam’s criticisms of the Republican governor were a turn-off to some as well.
Putnam “had every opportunity to oppose the very big government spending that he now eschews,” said one top Florida Republican who knows and likes both men. “It would have been hard to vote against Medicare Part D, of course. And that vote would have mattered. He chose bigger government when most of his conservative friends were against it. It was the right vote, but he did the same calculus that Rick Scott had to do.”
Though a disappointment for the right, the Medicare vote was crucial to Bush’s 2004 reelection, especially in senior-heavy Florida where he often talked up all the freebies seniors would get.
On the campaign trail in Florida, sometimes with Putnam by his side, Bush also bashed his opponent, then-Sen. John Kerry, for his mixed opposition to it.
Putnam on his campaign website in 2008 described the measure as a way to save money — not for taxpayers but for seniors.
“A number of my constituents have told me that thanks to the new program, for the first time in their lives,” Putnam said then, “they are able to take all their prescription medications.”
Years later, Scott spoke about the human face of Medicaid: poor, working-class people like his mother, Esther, who had struggled to raise five children, including one who fell ill and had no insurance.
“No mother, or father, should despair over whether or not they can afford – or access – the healthcare their child needs,” Scott said.
“While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,” Scott said.
The GOP-led Legislature, which made a show in 2009 of wanting to reject Obama’s stimulus package only to take the money, will likely not expand Medicaid. Many say they’ll never back a big-government Obama program again.Unlike Putnam’s praise of the Medicare entitlement, Scott expressed a measure of discomfort with the Medicaid program. He asked the Legislature to sign off on it, provided the federal government picked up 100 percent of the new cost for three years, estimated right now at $6.7 billion.
After three years, the state would have to start picking up an increasing share of the program and Florida would evaluate whether or not to continue, Scott said. Over a decade, if the state kept the program, it would kick in $1.75 billion and the federal government about $28 billion.
“Our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying healthcare to our citizens, or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other healthcare reforms,” Scott said.
Putnam had used a variation of a fair-share argument in describing why he opposed another Obama program, the stimulus, only to later ask the Obama Administration to grant Florida a waiver to qualify for millions in education money.