It was his show, his name appeared big, so it was a surprise to no one when Gov. Rick Scott blew his own horn Tuesday in front of an audience of mostly Scott's invited guests, media, party and national leaders at the "Economic Growth Summit" in Orlando.
Scott pointed to his record on the economy as a model for whoever wins the 2016 presidential election.
“The next president has to do what we’ve done in Florida to turn around the national economy,” the governor said, insisting his plan of “less taxes, less regulation” and smaller government was paying off in the Sunshine State.
Some of the leading possibilities to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee -- including candidates with strong ties to Florida -- didn't miss their chance to make an impression on the Sunshine State.
The occasion was sponsored by Let's Get To Work, the unofficial campaign fund Scott established in 2010. With its ability to receive unlimited contributions, LGTW raised almost $100 million for Scott's two election campaigns. Though the campaigns are over, the fund is not. It has transformed into a multipurpose political advocacy organization that runs TV commercials, pushing Scott's legislative agenda. It paid for the "Economic Growth Summit."
The event Tuesday saw seven potential Republican presidential candidates focus on economics. Six Republicans appeared: former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Gov. Chris Chrisite of New Jersey, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Due to Senate votes on the Patriot Act, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., addressed the summit via video. Huckabee and Rubio are already officially running, while Perry is expected to kick off his bid later this week.
Saying he could not miss the Senate vote, playing up his campaign theme of a “New American Century," Rubio called for new leadership to deal with the challenges of the changing economy and talked about his parents who achieved the American dream after immigrating from Cuba.
“We are facing the most significant period of change since the Industrial Revolution,” Rubio said in the video. “And yet, instead of benefiting from the opportunities that come with this transformation, our people are held back by the challenges that it presents. While our economy is transforming, our policies and our leaders are not. Our outdated leaders continue to cling to outdated ideas."
Rubio insisted high taxes and heavy regulations were not working in the global economy and is leading to companies refusing to invest in America. If elected, Rubio said, he would “revolutionize higher education,” cut regulations, slash government and lower taxes.
Bush stressed his conservative credentials, including cutting taxes and shrinking the public payroll during his two terms in Tallahassee. He pointed out that Florida was only behind California when it came to job creation during his time in office. Bush also stressed the importance of reforming workers' comp and torts.
Looking at his record in office, Bush said his proudest accomplishment was education, including supporting more school choice options. He also pointed toward Estonia’s tax process -- which can be done quickly online -- as a model to emulate.
Huckabee, who moved to the Florida Panhandle after his 2008 presidential bid, hammered President Barack Obama for taking $700 billion from Medicare to pay for his federal health-care law. The former Arkansas governor also called for allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and attacked proposals to cut Social Security.
“Not only has the government stolen from you, now it's going to lie to you,” Huckabee said about proposals to cut Social Security. “That is not only a recipe for political suicide, but economic suicide.
"The greatest way to save Social Security, Medicare and this country is to grow the economy,” Huckabee added. "The better way to help Social Security and Medicare is to pass the Fair Tax ... not to just tinker with the tax code."
With the Legislature in special session in Tallahassee dealing with the budget, Huckabee stood with Scott in opposing Medicaid expansion.
“When it comes to the Medicaid debate and health care, states have a better idea than D.C.,” Huckabee said. “Leave Washington out of it.”
Perry pointed to his record in Texas, noting he had led the state to new economic heights and stood with Scott against Medicaid expansion. The former Texas governor also called for legal reform, lower taxes, less regulation and more school choice.
Taking aim at federal education policy, Perry said the states know more than the federal government when it comes to education. “That’s why I’m against Common Core,” Perry said.
Walker pointed to his fights with government unions and fighting for free-market solutions in Wisconsin, including ending teacher tenure.
“We no longer have seniority or tenure," Walker told the crowd. "That means we can put the best and brightest in our classes and we can pay them to be there."
For his appearance, Christie was interviewed by Scott. During the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Christie, from his perch as chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), took to the campaign trail numerous times for Scott. Christie called for lower taxes and expressed support for means testing to rein in federal spending.
Calling for fiscal restraint in the federal government, Jindal expressed support for cracking down on the national debt and also stood with Scott against Medicaid expansion.
“I want to commend him for standing strong against expanding Medicaid,” Jindal said about the Florida governor, comparing Medicaid expansion to dishonest mortgage rates.
Jindal also slammed Common Core and called for a federal balanced budget amendment and backed congressional term limits.
The Florida Democratic Party insisted on Tuesday that the crowd of Republican presidential hopefuls and Scott were all tainted by scandal, hitting them as the “Shady Bunch” in a parody of the old “Brady Bunch” sitcom.
“The self-serving politicians Rick Scott invited to speak at his so-called ‘economic summit’ reflect this governor’s total disconnect with the challenges middle-class Floridians are facing. What advice does Rick Scott think his speakers can offer everyday Floridians?” asked Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, this week. “Will Jeb Bush offer insight on how to cash in on your family name to make millions on more than a dozen shady corporate boards? Will Marco Rubio explain to Florida's middle class why he raised taxes and slashed education spending by over $2 billion? Will Chris Christie give tips on dealing with nine credit downgrades? Will Scott Walker use himself as [an] example of how to run a state budget into the ground? Scott’s other invitees are no better.
“In the end, all Rick Scott is hoping for with this event is a temporary distraction from his disastrous mismanagement of state government and inability to pass a budget,” Tant added. “It’s not going to work.”
Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, stressed the importance of the event.
“The Florida story is one of recovery and success, and today we have been able to share that with six potential 2016 presidential candidates,” Wilson said. “The path to Florida’s success was paved by a united businesses community that rallied behind a competitiveness agenda that focused on free enterprise. The Florida Chamber believes that Florida’s economic success can be used as an example on how to lead the nation and move our economy forward."
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk-show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio. Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN