Pending Obamacare Ruling Gives Rick Scott a Chance to Firm Up Republican Support

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 28, 2012 3:55 AM
Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a good opportunity to rally Republicans behind him -- and he may have an old political foe to thank for it.

Scott won a bloody Republican primary over then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in 2010. While Scott went on to defeat Democratic nominee Alex Sink, who was then serving as state CFO, in the closest gubernatorial election in more than 165 years of Florida statehood, McCollum sulked in his tent, refusing to endorse either of the candidates.

During his year and a half in Tallahassee, Scott has remained upside down in the polls despite signs that the economy in Florida is starting to recover. With Scott focusing on job growth during his campaign, the state unemployment rate has dropped under his watch -- going from 10.9 percent when he took over to 8.6 percent in May, the lowest it has been since December 2008. Despite these numbers, Scott remains underwater in the polls, with the percentage of Floridians who disapprove of the governor outpacing those who approve by double digits.

Two polls released this month by Quinnipiac University serve as solid examples of Scott’s continuing struggles. A poll from Quinnipiac unveiled last week showed Scott getting the approval of 39 percent of those surveyed while 49 percent disapprove of him. Scott did even worse in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday that shows 48 percent of those surveyed disapprove of him while 35 percent approve of his performance in Tallahassee.

Scott should be concerned about his unsteady standing with Republicans. In the first poll, 71 percent of Republicans surveyed approved of Scott while 19 percent disapproved of him. In the new poll, 60 percent of Republicans approve of the governor while 25 percent disapprove of him.

It’s a fairly dramatic swing in one week, but there are reasons for it. Before the first poll was unveiled, Scott launched a major media push to promote his call to purge noncitizen voters from the rolls. The first Quinnipiac poll showed that 60 percent of Floridians -- and 90 percent of Republicans -- backed the idea. It’s an issue that clearly resonates with the Republican base and boosted the governor’s standing with the GOP rank and file.

Scott did not enjoy the political spotlight as much when the second poll was being taken, and his standing with Republicans slipped back. The governor was unknown to many Republican voters when he jumped into the gubernatorial race back in 2010 and bad feelings can still linger after an exceptionally bitter contest that he barely won. Remember, a majority of the Republicans who voted in the 2010 primary did not vote for Scott. He took 46 percent of the primary vote while McCollum drew 43 percent, and the rest went to businessman and retired Army officer Mike McCalister who is now running for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Clearly Scott still has work to do in rallying Republicans behind him if he wants to seek a second term in 2014.

This week, an opportunity presented itself for Scott to continue to mend fences with Republicans who aren’t quite sold on him -- and he has McCollum to thank. Hours after President Barack Obama signed the federal health-care bill in 2010, McCollum launched a constitutional challenge to it which has drawn the support of 25 other states. With the Supreme Court of the United States expected to offer a ruling on the challenge on Thursday, Scott has an opportunity to win-over hesitant Republicans by reminding them that he rose to national political prominence in 2009 by opposing Obama on the issue.

There are signs that Scott has something like that in mind. The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released a statement on Tuesday in which the governor attacked the health-care law.

"I organized a group in 2009 to make sure we reduced the cost of health care for Americans,” Scott said in the statement. “Unfortunately, Obamacare passed. Obamacare will ration care for patients. It will make it more difficult for individuals looking for a job because employers will have to pay more for their employees' health care and will raise taxes on Floridians. I am very optimistic that the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional, but if not, it needs to be repealed."

With national polls showing more Americans want to repeal the law than keep it, and the GOP rank and file solidly backing overturning it, Scott has the opportunity to make another media push on an issue that should help rally more Republicans to his standard. It’s an issue that should be in Scott’s wheelhouse with his political background and years in the health care industry.

Scott faces the danger of being tuned out; every Republican worth his salt will be trying to elbow the others out of the way to weigh in on the court decision no matter how it goes. But as governor of the state that launched the challenge, and with his background, Scott should have opportunities to make his case and attempt to woo Republicans who might still have doubts about him. Scott’s handlers will have to figure out how to keep those Republicans behind their man, but they have more than two years to work on that. If Scott wants a second term, he needs to secure his Republican base before he can reach out to other voters -- and playing up his opposition to the health-care law offers a good opportunity to shore up his support in the GOP.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

Comments (3)

John Paul Jones
11:25AM JUN 28TH 2012
Frank, the fact that you and your democrat parasites don't know what the law does two years after enactment clearly illustrates what a disasterous creation it is. Thankfully, it has been revealed as the massive tax hike that it is, and Florida will not have to participate in the medicare expansion. But congratulations to you for supporting this tax hike and enjoy it...for now!
1:09PM JUN 28TH 2012
Ah, yes, the intellectual demonizing musings of the far right, with the first beginnings of coprolalia.

Of course, that is not totally diagnostic, so we'll have to wait and see if there are repeated episodes implying neurological damage, such as confused speech and distorted vision prior to a definitive diagnosis that this is indeed progressive Mad Hatter Disorder from attending one too many tea parties.

Might I suggest a health care provider under the new Obamacare act provisions that might be able to provide a little further assistance?

I'm sure your mild symptoms are still treatable at this early stage, but probably not for much longer.
11:02AM JUN 28TH 2012
The Supreme Court decision is out.

Rick Scott and Republicans can unilaterally push repeal at their own peril as Americans and Floridians become more educated on what this act actually does and doesn't do.

Once it is realized that the doomsday predictions by a partisan Republican party aren't becoming true, and Republicans have no viable alternative to offer, there may well be a political backlash against the Republicans who participated in politics of the "Big Lie".

Now would be a good time to pull together, but I'm not sure that will happen until after November.

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