Flashback to 2010. Florida Governor Rick Scott had just narrowly beat Alex Sink in their November showdown that had textgate, massive TV buys, and the rise of the Tea Party, that turned Tallahassee as Red as it had ever been.
The former healthcare executive leaped into the GOP primary, with his pickup truck and catchy “Let’s get to Work” catchphrase that resonated with voters suffering from high unemployment. He ran as far to the right as possible. Arizona style immigration, Repeal and Replace Obamacare, he linked his competition to the then unpopular Commander in Chief, throwing out phrases like “Obama Math” and “Obama Economics”. When he arrived in office, unions marched to Tallahassee to protest pension contributions, similar to the policies Scott’s colleague, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was implementing up north.
Scott’s approval numbers suffered but the Tea Party and Core Conservatives were still behind him. Besides, he had 4 years to make things right.
Fast Forward to last November where Conservatives took a beating in the November elections. President Obama turned out his people and coasted to re-election, taking hundreds of candidates all over the country along on his coat tails. Including, 5 State House Democrats from right here in the Greater Orlando area.
%33 percent? The high 30′s were the norm for Scott, but this wasn’t going to work. Polls also revealed that voters wouldn’t mind if Scott had a GOP primary opponent, and to make things worse, Scott’s predecessor former Governor Charlie Crist had officially become a Democrat and was leaning toward going after his old job.
His voter base was dwindling. He would lose to Sink, Crist or any of the minor names out there. What is Rick Scott going to do?
Start walking it back. Not only win back voters that supported him two years ago, but poach from the middle, and do it before competition officially declares and kills his re-election chances. Then release a modified “Let’s get to Work” sequel.
It started this week with Scott trying to make peace with some of his biggest critics. Teachers. In a very “Oprah” like gesture Scott declared across the board pay increases for educators.
“2,500 dollars for you and you! 2,500 dollars for everyone!”
Scott has also softened up on other issues like Immigration and Election Reform. Why? He has to. Florida is trending blue but, Scott barely won during the Red November of 2010. He’s got no choice.
It’s Rick Scott the moderate from here on out. The crazy part? He’s got enough time and money to make it work.
Two years, a bottomless war chest, and his biggest threat is an opponent who’s switched party affiliation 3 times in as many years.
Moderate will have to be the new normal for Florida’s Governor if he wants to survive 2014. Can he convince the voters?
Scott’s change in political behavior is essential for re-election