The backing of conservatives is crucial in the hotly contested Republican gubernatorial primary between health-care executive Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum, as both candidates seek to brandish their appeal to right-of-center voters while painting their rival as a closet liberal.
On Thursday, Scott attempted to reinforce his conservative credentials while questioning McCollums.
The Scott campaign trumpeted its candidate earning an A grade from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida (USF) for his support of Second Amendment Rights.
I am grateful and very excited about this A-rating and what it means for our campaign to be the only one in this race to have such a ranking, said Scott, a lifetime member of the NRA. I have always been committed to the values, freedoms and protections embodied by the NRA and will continue to work with the NRA as a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights and freedoms. I pledge, as governor, to work hand-in-hand with the NRA to protect not only these Second Amendment rights and freedoms, but all constitutional rights of the citizens of this great state. ..."
McCollum earned a B this time out from the NRA and the USF, though he garnered higher marks from the NRA earlier in his political career.
Besides seeking to run to McCollums right on the right to bear arms, Scott also attempted toportray the attorney general as a supporter of higher taxes.
Scott launched a new ad against McCollum on Thursday. It claims that McCollum voted to raise taxes more than 40 times during his 20 years in Congress.
McCollums contradiction on tax increases is the latest example of how he will say one thing, yet do just the opposite, said Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Scott. How he can look voters in the eye and tell them he wont raise taxes, while knowing he has a long history of voting for higher taxes and fees, is beyond me. Floridians know that a flip-flopping career politician who has voted to increase taxes and fees 42 times is hardly the Republican to take on Alex Sink as she tries to bring President Obama's hard-boiled, liberal agenda to Florida. ...
McCollum's shell is beginning to crack and we are seeing a desperate career politician who has mastered the fine art of promising anything just to get elected.
But McCollum is also seeking to highlight his conservative principles.
On Wednesday, John Stemberger of Florida Family PAC and the Florida Family Policy Council, and Dennis Baxley, formerly with the Christian Coalition, announced that they would organize social conservatives for McCollum.
There is a now a clear consensus among the leadership of the conservative pro-life and pro-family movement that Bill McCollum is the only candidate we trust to stand in support of life, marriage and family issues, wrote Stemberger and Baxley in a letter listing social conservatives who were behind McCollum. Grass-roots leaders in virtually every region of the state are supporting Bill McCollum and the numbers are growing daily.We will not allow our state to be bought by a Texas billionaire lawyer who has lived here for only less than a decade.
McCollum has also won the backing of many prominent national conservative figures, including former presidential candidate Gary Bauer and conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the Eagle Forum.
The upcoming Republican primary Aug. 24 will be a crucial decision for Republican voters in Florida as to whether their state will be returned to proven, sound conservative policies and principles, said Schlafly. Bill McCollum can point to a distinguished record of conservative votes and services. He has demonstrated leadership on a variety of issues important to conservative voters.
McCollum will campaign across the state Monday with former Gov. Jeb Bush -- an early backer of the attorney general who remains popular among Florida Republicans and conservatives.
Both McCollum and Scott are apparently succeeding in highlighting their conservative values. A poll released by Rasmussen Wednesday finds that 59 percent of Floridians consider Scott a conservative, compared to 53 percent who think McCollum is one.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.