Florida Democrats are already crowing about the opportunities in 2014 when unpopular Governor Rick Scott will be at the top of the GOP ticket. But Scott, a novice politician is learning on the job and quite frankly improving as time goes on.
Scott’s politics and policies much like that of Jeb Bush have hurt Florida’s ordinary citizens. Both lacked humility and have demonstrated an unhealthy sense of entitlement while in office. But in the past few months, Rick Scott has begun to reach out to his opponents on policy and at times look above the fray politically. He still has a long way to go however, as these moves may seem like tokenism or an aberration. But Scott has appeared to be less controversial and political during this campaign season and more focused on putting Floridians to work than may have been expected.
Scott will also have an advantage because in off year elections when national money and national organization is minimal for Florida’s Democrats, Republicans consistently have a huge advantage in turnout and resources. Democrats learned a harsh lesson in 2002 and 2010 that you cannot nominate mushy moderates even against deeply flawed and polarizing Republicans and win in a turnout driven election. Moreover, one issue that can motivate voters and is deadly important is that of the environment and Florida’s clean water supply which is in long term jeopardy. Yet, the Democrats have done zero to emphasize these issues and while Scott rallies his base with calculated political moves, the opposition does little.
Cronyism and corruption is another line of attack the Democrats can use against Scott. Based on recent FDP ad buys, the party has gotten this message and should make it a line of attack in 2014. But my fear is if the Legislative candidates running hard on these issues this cycle fail, the Democrats may go back to a policy of accommodation with the GOP and soft peddling obvious issues of cronyism and unethical behavior in the Administration.
Scott’s unwillingness to accept stimulus money, particularly for high speed rail in the crowded I-4 corridor should be a campaign issue of major significance in the most important region of the state. Yet, Florida Democrats are unable or unwilling to discuss this regularly, with the exception of Senator Bill Nelson who will not be on the 2014 ballot.
I have a personal problem that someone could be a Florida Resident for just seven years and run for Governor. I would like to see the five year residency requirement become a 15 year requirement. Florida is a complicated state, the closest microcosm to the nation as a whole that exists in the 21st Century. It takes a great deal of time living and working in the state to actually understand the problems and needs of Floridians. But the non-residency and non history in the state seems to be of little concern to many Floridians, whose own ties to the state are scant.
Rick Scott’s approval rating remains low and he is a lighting rod for many voters. However, if I had to bet today, I would predict he wins re-election because he is growing as a politician and Florida Democrats are infamous for self-inflicting wounds.