The thinking among Scott supporters is that a Crist candidacy could help motivate hostile Republicans. It would also ensure the election would be a referendum on Crist as much as the incumbent.
At the same time, Scott’s background of having been ousted as leader of health care company that paid a $1.7 billion fine for alleged Medicare fraud is unlikely to be a central issue again.
Likewise, the backlash from voters angry about the state rejecting federal money to expand health insurance for more than 1 million low-income Floridians will be diluted because Scott publicly supported the expansion.
Mostly, though, supporters see Scott’s fortunes as tied to a steadily improving economy. He may not be the most warm, fuzzy and likeable candidate, the thinking goes, but voters will appreciate that he is delivering on his central campaign promises of 2010.
“In 2010, nobody knew who Rick Scott was, so the campaign had to tell his story and at the same time explain how he was going to fix Florida’s economy,” said Republican consultant Brian Burgess of Tallahassee, who worked on Scott’s 2010 campaign. “This time around, everyone knows Rick Scott, and they also know the economy got better on his watch. His campaign just has to connect the dots.”
Scott spent $75 million of his own money to narrowly beat Sink, the former chief financial officer, in 2010, and he told people afterward that he would spend none of his own money on the re-election.
His reported net worth has fallen from $218 million when he ran for governor, to $83 million at the end of 2011, according to required financial disclosures. Scott’s 2012 disclosure is due to be released this summer.
No one believes he would not dip into his own pockets if necessary, but Scott already is aggressively raising money for what he expects to be a $100 million re-election campaign. His political committee, Let’s Get to Work, already has banked more than $10 million.
“People have been very supportive and invested in my (political committee) already because they believe in what I’m doing, and they know I’ve turned our economy around,” Scott said Friday, sidestepping the question of whether he will invest any of his own money toward his re-election.
Scott’s campaign team is expected to be smaller than four years ago, because much of the financing and organizing now can be done through the state GOP.
The top strategist again will be Fabrizio, a blunt, cigar-smoking Brooklyn native Bob Woodward once dubbed “an attack specialist” for his work on the Bob Dole campaign. Fabrizio, now residing in Fort Lauderdale, is the pollster and big picture strategist who has continued advising Scott throughout his first three years as governor.
Also sure to be on board are media consultants Curt Anderson, Brad Todd and Nelson Warfield, who worked with Fabrizio on the last Scott campaign as well as Rick Perry’s presidential campaign.
The governor’s office and state party have imported several staffers who previously worked for other Curt Anderson clients, including Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor and prospective 2016 presidential contender. In Tallahassee, some Republicans jokingly refer to the Florida GOP as the Republican Party of Jindal because of the numerous ties to Anderson.
For his part, Scott naturally says he’s too busy governing to think about what his campaign will look like. Whatever the polls say today, however, Democrats should not underestimate him.
“I’m going to keep working on jobs, keep working on education. Those are the two things our families care about, and keeping the cost of living low,” Scott said.
Contact Adam C. Smith at email@example.com