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Nancy Smith

Rick Scott May Have to Win in a Vacuum of Star-Moderate Republicans

January 10, 2014 - 6:00pm

Rick Scott clawed his way to the highest office in the state alone. Nobody but the tea party had his back. To win re-election, he might have to do it alone again -- at least, without the support of moderates of star quality.

Let's say Chris Christie escapes a George Washington Bridge tarnish. Even if he's still good as gold, he's probably the only top-drawer moderate Republican who can throw an arm around Scott's neck and have it mean something in Florida.

A one-man army to make conservative-poster-boy Scott palatable to moderates. Christie's the guy. There just aren't many other moderate Repubs out there. At least, not ones Floridians have ever heard of.

And forget members of Congress. Think about it. How many out-of-state Congress men and women of either party would you want on your campaign team? As Jeff Henderson put it, Congress is polling lower than cockroaches.

New Jersey Gov. Christie is still a prize for Scott. He's the new head of the Republican Governors Association, he's one of the most popular governors in the country and he's leading a number of early polls among Republican presidential candidates. The National Journal claims Christie is going to head Rick Scott fundraisers in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando as early as next Saturday.

In the meantime, while Scott is short of moderates to appear on his behalf, his probable opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, is up to his tan line in liberal Dems who want to help him and love him publicly -- true-blue Democrats; charismatic Democrats -- who can convince the doubting Thomases that their flip-flopper's ideology is what he says it is and it's worthy of their vote.

In fact, if he wants, Crist can throw away Barack Obama -- which he is unlikely to do, even with Obamacare dragging the president down -- and he'll still have Vice President Joe Biden and Bill and Hillary Clinton hugging him. That's a powerful "A" team.

On the other hand, it's unlikely Scott will need as much help as Crist in redefining who he is. Democrats don't know Crist as one of theirs yet. His old record as a Republican doesn't count. It's going to take a Hall of Fame ensemble of Dems to make Charlie Crist look like a committed liberal Democrat voters can trust.

Sure, it would be nice if Scott had a larger stable of moderates to help him lure independents, just as political observers have noted. But while his first term in office might not have been perfect, he has a record of accomplishment during tough economic times he can comfortably run on. His low approval ratings are on the rise, and he hasn't even started campaigning. It might be, as it should -- that voters ultimately decide Florida is better in recovery now than it was under former Gov. Charlie Crist.

The bottom line is, Scott and the Republican Legislature cut spending in the state budget in bad times, restored it when times improved. That's pretty good governing, and -- like Scott personally or not -- Floridians know it. The governor's administration has built a business climate that's seen the state unemployment rate drop from 11.4 percent in 2011 to 6.4 percent in November, below the national average. New jobs are happening, argue all you like over how many. Scott is focused.

Think of it: In three years, unemployment in Florida has been cut almost in half.

So, while it's good for Scott that moderate Chris Christie will be here to stump for him, ultimately it's the voters who will do the hard work. They're the ones who are going to think long and hard about their vote, who are going to look at the records of each governor, Crist and Scott, and decide for themselves which one had the state sputtering and which had it flying.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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