Rick Scott: How Did Charlie Crist Do On Jobs?
Around the State
Charlie Crist has been making the rounds nationally the past few days about his newfound Democratic Party beliefs, fist-bumping President Obama at the White House and verbally slamming the GOP on CNN.
In Florida, where the reception hasn’t been as enthusiastic, Gov. Rick Scott brushed aside prospects about a 2014 match-up with the prior occupant of the governor’s mansion.
But before reciting to reporters his mantra of being focused on education, jobs and the cost of living, Scott first got in an offhand swipe at the former governor when asked about Crist at long last completing his conversion from Republican to Democrat.
“We’ve had great progress on getting our state back to work,” Scott said while in his Capitol office following the state Cabinet meeting.
“The four years before I became governor the state lost 825,000 jobs, unemployment had gone from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent. We incurred another $5.2 billion in debt.”
Unemployment in Florida was 8.5 percent when the most recent numbers were released in November.
Crist, for his part, was on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Monday night repeating his line that "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me."
Last Friday, Crist -- who left the GOP when U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, overtook him in the 2010 Senate contest -- tweeted that he was now registered as a Democrat.
Crist, who wasn’t asked about running for governor, claimed the GOP has become less tolerant and welcoming. He noted that former Gov. Jeb Bush argued in June that President Ronald Reagan may have had a difficult time succeeding in the party today.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who was Senate president for two years while Crist was governor, laughed when asked about Crist’s change in registration.
"I'm not surprised by it," Atwater said following the state Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Still, Atwater wouldn’t make a prediction on Crist running for governor.
"If you were around my last year as president, he vetoed about everything we sent him that he was for when the session started; in fact, he attended the press conferences that were for them,” Atwater said.
“I was with him when he announced himself as a Reagan Republican, as a Connie Mack Republican, as a Jeb Bush Republican, so I'll let him make his call.
"We always had a fine working relationship; it was always very cordial and I always respected that. We may have had differences of opinion on trying to balance the budget during very difficult fiscal times, and I would have liked to see him make some more difficult decisions that the rest of us had to make."
Meanwhile, Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that even if Crist’s next step is to run for office, Scott will win.
"Why did (Crist) change parties when he ran against me to run as an independent? Because he couldn't get elected as a Republican, not because his principles changed," Rubio told the Times.
"I'll let him speak to his motives and what he believes in. Voters are going to examine all that and make a decision based on what they think is right for their future. I think Rick Scott's going to have a great story to tell two years from now and I expect he'll be re-elected. I think he'll win convincingly if his general election opponent is Charlie Crist. We'll find out."
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.