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GOP Looks to Get Out Rick Scott's Message

October 6, 2013 - 6:00pm

With little more than a year left before Gov. Rick Scott faces voters to ask for re-election, Republicans say they're confident he can win what polls show to be an uphill battle -- as long as he gets his message out.

Before 700 people gathered in a ballroom at Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort, Republican Party of Florida officials hammered home the same message: To borrow Scott's catchphrase, it's working. Now, they said, it's time to sell that message.

"The governor has a record to run on and that record is a record that appeals to all Floridians," RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry told reporters after the soiree, which lasted a little more than an hour.

He brushed off polls showing Scott behind his most likely Democratic opponent, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, as "pretty irrelevant." Not that speakers at Friday's event weren't willing to take a few shots at their one-time standard bearer. Curry included Crist's bid as he ticked off the problems facing Democrats in the state.

"And they are on the verge of an arranged marriage with someone that has proven that he is unfit to govern: Charlie Crist," he said, drawing boos from the crowd.

But the leading edge for Scott is clearly going to be the state's turnaround, with Republicans saying Scott deserves credit for creating 365,000 private-sector jobs since taking office in 2011.

It was a message Scott himself pushed in a video address to the dinner.

"We should be very proud and we should be bragging," said Scott, stuck in Tallahassee to deal with Tropical Storm Karen as it churned off the Gulf Coast. "We have had a significant economic turnaround in our state."

Still, Scott's poll numbers have stagnated even as the positive jobs reports have rolled in.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute reported in June that Scott's numbers had rebounded, at least compared to his old marks: Scott's approval rating was up to 43 percent, against 44 percent who disapproved -- the best numbers Scott had drawn from the poll since he was elected.

However, half of those polled still said Scott didn't deserve re-election, and Democrats have touted a more recent poll from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm in North Carolina, showing Scott with worse numbers.

"The voters of Florida have seen through Rick Scotts governance by campaign photo-op and they are not fooled," Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said in a statement earlier this week. "Rick Scott has nothing to show for a whole summer of campaigning."

Democrats are also expected to argue that the turnaround in Florida, which is now below the national average in unemployment, is due at least in part to a national recovery that can be credited to President Barack Obama. Sen. John Thrasher, who chaired the state GOP during Scott's first bid for election, said the national trend wasn't enough to explain Florida's job growth.

"Everybody can say the uptick in the economy is why Florida's coming back," said Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. "But Florida's coming back better than a lot of other states around the country."

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