Democrats, Don't Go Counting Your Chickens in 2014 Just Yet
Around the State
Woe is the Democrat who thinks Rick Scott is chopped liver in 2014.
On the contrary. Not only is Florida's 45th governor politically alive and well, he probably has his lineup of limp-wristed potential opponents exactly where he wants them.
Never mind Scott's approval numbers, voters have said in surveys they like his policies. And now the Wall Street Journal and the libertarian Cato Institute say they do, too.
Scott was celebrated in the pages of the Journal on Tuesday as the co-top-rated governor in the country -- tied for No. 1 of 50 -- for his determined fiscal stewardship. He was one of only four governors to be given a grade of "A" for cutting taxes and spending.
The Cato Institute, sixth most influential U.S.-based think tank, said this of Scott: "(He) has championed major tax and spending reforms. He has proposed substantial budget cuts, vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars of wasteful spending and trimmed state employment.
"Scott is also determined to give Florida the best economic climate for business investment and job creation in the country. He wants to phase out the corporate income tax, and he has made progress toward that goal by raising the CIT exemption to end the tax for thousands of small businesses.
"Scott's plan to cut taxes on business personal property is on the November ballot. If citizens approve the plan, it would end this tax for about 156,000 businesses."
It isn't the national attention that makes the Cato Institute's "report card" such a warning bell for the Scott detractors. It's two things:
Timing. Mainstream media are using Scott's perceived unpopularity to affect votes in the November general election. And the drumbeat for Scott's ouster, two years ahead of time, has already begun. A national story putting the Florida governor triumphantly at the head of a class of 50 isn't going to do much for the cause.
Knowledge of the surveys and polls taken over the last year. For example, the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times/News 9 poll in the Herald in July, "Voters don't like Gov. Rick Scott but like his policies." The results of that poll must have been a bitter disappointment to the progressive leadership at the Herald, Times and News 9. None of the three opted for large displays of the story. Now they've got Scott's "A" drilled into their subconscious.
Florida's problems were complex and deepening long before 2010, when Scott won the election -- a fact most voters recognize, even the ones who didn't vote for him, even some of the ones who still hold protest signs and call him "the worst governor Florida has ever seen." The budget shortfall was nearly $4 billion. Medicaid was eating the state alive. Banks weren't lending, businesses weren't growing, jobs were not being created, they were ending.
Floridians don't have such short memories as perhaps the liberals hope. I'm betting that in 2014, having absorbed the worst of the pain, voters won't want to shift into reverse and return a big spender to the governor's office. I'm betting that Scott's approval numbers will rise, and that he will stand a good chance of surviving a challenge.
(Incidentally, the five governors who received an "F" on Cato's report card -- all representing states in fiscal crisis -- are Pat Quinn of Illinois, Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Chris Gregoire of Washington.)
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or (850) 727-0859.