Defending Florida's embattled governor, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says, "We need Rick Scott for eight years."
Speaking to Sunshine State News on Thursday, Atwater praised Scott's "bias for action" in downsizing state government and boosting private-sector jobs.
"We need a consistent player, and I will do everything I can to help," Atwater said.
Earlier, speaking to the Indian River County Tea Party in Vero Beach, Atwater declared, "Scott doesn't give a hoot" about negative press or lackluster poll numbers.
"We can't worry about that. We have the right guy," the former state Senate president said.
Noting that Scott "does not run a big press office," Atwater said the governor "is a straight talker who is just doing the job."
And in a slap at newspapers whose editorial boards universally endorsed Scott's Democratic opponent last year, Atwater observed, "People are getting far better informed through other media, outlets which have a far better presentation of the facts."
Calling on the tea party audience to "get behind" Scott, Atwater thanked the governor "for the arrows he is taking."
One of those arrows landed this week when a Public Policy Polling survey reported that 37 percent of Florida Republicans wanted "someone else" as governor.
Last week, a Quinnipiac poll showed the general electorate split 37-37 on whether they liked the governor as a person -- and that was an improvement from August, when 34 percent liked him and 45 percent disliked him.
The PPP survey, along with Atwater's high-profile presence at the Presidency 5 summit in Orlando last weekend, fueled speculation that the CFO is eyeing higher office, perhaps even the governor's mansion.
"He's raising money three years out. He's hired additional staff. He was in campaign mode at Presidency 5," said Peter Schorsch, a center-left blogger who runs the political website, SaintPetersBlog.com.
"Atwater may not be running for governor, but he is running so that in case Rick Scott doesn't, he is best positioned to pick up the GOP mantle."
Schorsch called the PPP numbers "indicative of a GOP base that still isnt healed from the bitter 2010 primary contest. Scotts numbers are particularly weak with moderate Republicans -- 56 percent of whom say theyd replace him."
Atwater sought to quash any notion that he has his sights set on higher office.
"If I get just one term, I'd be happy to go home and improve my net income," said the banker, whose family residence is in Palm Beach County.
As for Florida under Scott, Atwater pointed to the state's reduced "top-line" spending and continued strong credit rating -- a sharp contrast from what's going on in Washington, D.C.
"Tell me that leaders don't matter," he said to a burst of applause.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.