Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was welcomed by a full house at the Jacksonville Marriott on Monday, where a team of hosts, all of them women, organized a private luncheon and fundraiser.
GOP state committee woman Cindy Graves welcomed a diverse group of attendees as the 2014 campaign season begins to get legs. Graves also hosts the popular Northeast Florida radio show The Cindy Graves Show that airs each weekday from 12-2 p.m. on WBOB 600 AM.
I was delighted to see fellow Republicans and friends Tony Castongia and Sabrina Wheeler there, and the producer of Cindy’s show Alexander Pantinakis, and so many others as well. There’s just not enough space to name everyone I was happy to see.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla 4) introduced Gov. Scott, and one remark drew a whole lot of enthusiasm from the crowd—reining in IRS.
Scott took the podium and began by talking about his childhood when his mother dealt with raising 5 children in the aftermath of divorce. The governor said as a child, he sold TV guides door to door, earning about $2 a week.
WHAT SCOTT INHERITED
Media don’t get all warm and fuzzy over Scott—he’s a Republican. But fact is, when he is in a room with regular people, he is very engaging. Scott isn’t the Ivy League type; he seems to have a natural connection with Main Street. Nor is he the pander-to-media type we often see in Washington today. When it comes to an actual record, however, if you’re making an objective judgment, it seems like he’d have a smooth reelection. Scott inherited numerous problems from his predecessor Charlie Crist.
For one thing, when Scott entered office after the 2010 midterms, Florida was struggling with the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Unemployment was high. The state’s population had fallen for the first time since World War II.
I summed up the state of the state in an earlier column:
“When Crist took office in 2007, Florida’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent; when he departed 4 years later, it was 10.9 percent and he had increased the state’s debt year after year. Scott took office in 2011 when the U.S. economy was still in the throes of a meltdown, but by December, 2013 he had reduced Florida’s unemployment rate to 6.2 percent.”
Scott also noted the negative remarks business owners—job creators—made about the economic climate. A lot of them, he said, “thought Florida was a disaster.” Taxes and fees had been raised; regulations had increased, and many businesses just didn’t think Florida looked like a good fit.
The Division of Bond Finance disclosed total state direct debt declined in 2011, and in 2012, it declined again by $1.5 billion. Also in 2012 General Fund Reserves showed “a nearly $1 billion improvement over the prior fiscal year.” Three major credit ratings agencies affirmed the State’s AAA, AAA, and Aa1 general obligation ratings, respectively:
“Credit strengths noted by the rating agencies include the State’s conservative financial and budgeting practices; significant progress in restoring structural budget balance; financial flexibility provided by sizable reserves; relatively strong pension funding levels; and a large and diverse economy.”
The 2012 DBF report issued in Dec., 2012 is the most recent.
Florida’s population is growing again, and at least 462,000 jobs have been added under Scott’s tenure.
Scott also gave a nod to Florida’s teachers and students—in 2012 among other gains, Florida’s 4th graders average scale score on the Progress in International Reading Literacy (569) was second only to Hong Kong’s (571).
SCOTT VS. CRIST
Scott concluded his remarks by telling attendees how much he appreciated them: “With your support, there’s no way we will lose.”
Scott’s likely opponent as things now stand will be former governor Crist. Crist is currently a Democrat, having also been a Republican and a Non-Party-Affiliated candidate when he lost the U.S. Senate race to Republican Marco Rubio.
Crist, if he wins the Democrats’ primary, and let’s face it, he’s basically been anointed, will run an aggressive campaign. Democrats chose Crist to speak at the annual Gridiron dinner where celebs and mostly pop culture media and pundits gather each year. Crist’s remarks suggested he hasn’t quite got over the snub from Republican senator John McCain in 2008 when Crist expected to grab the vice-presidential spot on the GOP ticket. By 2012 Crist was supporting President Barack Obama.
In January, Crist announced Obama’s 2012 campaign head Jim Messina had come aboard his team. That means anything goes, truth won’t matter, and media will be schmoozed in customary prog style. After all, that is how Obama won in 2012.
Messina once worked for former Dem senator Max Baucus (Mont.) who shepherded the PPACA/Obamacare bill into reality. Messina ran an ad against Baucus’ GOP opponent that was perceived as so anti-gay even a writer for Salon described it as “one of the most homophobic ads in American history.” The Montana Pioneer has an astute analysis of Messina’s tactics. Two things you can count on with the Crist-Messina effort: heavy use of social media and as TMP said, “dirty tricks.”
If you go by Crist’s actual record, making a case for his election to the governor’s office would fail.
If you go by Scott’s actual record, he should be a shoo-in.
Watching Scott greet people and pose for pictures with supporters at the luncheon, I was impressed by his patience and the fact that even when one woman’s camera just wouldn’t cooperate, he waited until the glitches were worked out so she could get her photo.
There’s one more thing Republicans should bear in mind about 2014. Scott won’t just be running against a Democrat for governor. As with all Republican candidates, media will be an opponent as well.
One point voters should acknowledge. From PPACA/Obamacare to current policy across the board, Crist’s campaign guy Messina had a hand in it. As a result, ask yourself the same question a popular ad puts forth: “What’s in your wallet?” Unless we want that wallet to grow lighter, it’d be a good idea to keep a successful governor in office, and that would be Scott.
(Opinion by Kay B. Day/March 10, 2014)