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Backroom Briefing: Rick Scott Goes Warm and Fuzzy

June 4, 2014 - 6:00pm

To the delight of his handlers, Gov. Rick Scott departed from his much-mocked, on-message, talking-point mantra last weekend during a gaggle with a handful of reporters after a Republican Party of Florida meeting.

Scott revealed his softer side when asked about how campaigning for re-election is different from his first time on the stump four years ago.

Scott immediately mentioned his wife Ann, who was perpetually by his side in his 2010 bid for governor. This time around, the first lady is traveling the state on her own, Scott said, promoting reading at schools and visiting children in hospitals.

"So she's not traveling with me as much this time. So that's probably the biggest difference. But she likes what she's doing. She likes going to schools. She loves reading to the kids. She's got a summer literacy initiative. She likes talking to new parents. She likes being a grandma. She likes all that," Scott said.

Scott said "it was fun" riding on a campaign bus in 2010 with his mother, Esther, who died two years ago, and his two daughters. He said he hopes his three grandsons will join him this summer.

Some have derided a recent television ad featuring Scott and his oldest grandson, Auguste, but the governor said he's received positive feedback.

"People like it. He's probably one of the most well-known 2-and-a-half-year-olds in the state now. One of the cutest things, though, one of his friends the same age, his mom called my daughter Allison. His name's Will. He started talking to Auguste on the TV. He was talking to Auguste, and Auguste didn't talk back. Then I think it was about two months ago a friend of my daughter called and said, 'What's Auguste doing with the governor?' She didn't know that Auguste's grandfather was the governor," Scott said, grinning.


If you needed a sign that the politics surrounding the debate over same-sex marriage have changed in recent months, you dont need to look any further than Attorney General Pam Bondis efforts to tamp down the belated uproar over a legal brief asking a federal court to throw out a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex nuptials.

The controversy has its roots in a May 12 filing by Bondi's office telling a federal district court that "disrupting Floridas existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm."

For whatever reason, it wasnt until last week that Democrats and gay-rights groups seized on the comments. Both of Bondis Democratic opponents in her bid for re-election blasted the attorney general's arguments, and Safeguarding American Values for Everyone -- a South Florida-based gay rights group -- used the significant public harm argument in a fundraising email.

This week, Bondi tried to distance herself from the legal brief she says she was duty-bound to file.

"The brief does not argue for or against same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, wisdom, or fairness," she said in a lengthy statement issued Monday. ... "We are defending this amendment based solely upon judicial precedent and not the personal views of anyone in our office. Anything else would be bad lawyering -- just as in all cases, the personal opinions of the advocates and the judges involved are utterly irrelevant."

It wasnt that long ago that a Republican attorney general in Florida would have trumpeted a filing against gay marriage and Democratic opponents might have shied away from criticizing it too strongly. But a majority of Floridians -- 56 percent -- now favor same-sex marriage, according to a Quinnipiac University poll in late April.


Don't expect to see much of Scott in Tallahassee this summer. From the looks of the daily schedules his office emails to reporters, Scott is in full campaign mode.

Since last Thursday, Scott's schedule has listed official events on only one day. That came Monday when he had two events in Pensacola, including a hurricane-preparedness news conference. On three other days, Scott had no scheduled events. On four days, his schedule listed only the catchall "staff and call time."

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "How hard can it be to run Apopka? 'No, I want the Arby's to go over there!'" -- Florida Trend Associate Editor Jason Garcia (@Jason_Garcia), on reports that Apopka's new mayor will make $150,000 a year.

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