Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
Columns

Giving credit to Rick Scott, if still not embracing him


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Perhaps my Twitter account had been hacked.

Maybe I had bumped my head.

There was even a conspiracy that I had succumbed to a political payoff.

Whatever the reason, my followers on Twitter could not believe what I tweeted on Friday. That’s because this avowed progressive and Charlie Crist acolyte dared to write something positive about Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Friday brought news that Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent in March, the lowest it has been since the fall of 2008, as the state and national recovery from the recession continued, according to The News Service of Florida.

The unemployment picture is dramatically different from just over two years ago when, right after Scott was elected, the jobless rate in the state spiked to 12 percent late in 2010.

In 140 characters, I noted that Florida had the largest job gains in the nation. One hundred and forty more characters were dedicated to the fact that March marked 32 straight months of positive annual job growth.

You would have thought I had agreed to be Jennifer Carroll’s replacement as Scott’s lieutenant governor.

And therein lies much of what is wrong with our current political discourse -- that a critic cannot point out, not where the strong man stumbled, but where he succeeded.

I almost feel sorry for Rick Scott at this point in his career, although David Mamet once wrote that you should never feel sorry for a man who owns his own airplane. For the better part of a year, perhaps longer, Scott has done almost everything his critics have asked him to do, yet he is as popular as sunburn.

Told he wasn’t doing enough for education, the governor restored much of the funding he and Republican lawmakers foolishly cut. Then he doubled-down with an across-the-board pay increase proposal for every teacher.

Urged to accept the benefits of Obamacare, Scott asked the Legislature to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Even on the “little things,” Scott is more and more doing what’s right, at least what is considered right by the newspaper editorial boards who never hesitate to criticize the governor. For example, House and Senate budget negotiators have agreed to spend $36.3 million next year to provide services to hundreds of people with developmental disabilities who have been stuck on a waiting list. This was a proposal first backed by Gov. Scott.

The trouble for Scott is two-fold: One, he was never forgiven for the scorched-earth campaign he ran in 2010 to win the governor’s mansion. As if that first impression wasn’t bad enough, Scott’s first year in office was politically disastrous.

Just consider this: Scott at his most popular has never been as high in his approval ratings as the low-water mark for Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- a fellow big-state, strict conservative also elected in 2010.

I can’t believe I am about to write this, but I don’t know if Floridians are being fair to Rick Scott.

Don’t get me wrong -- or at least don’t accuse me of being secretly paid by Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee. I won’t be voting for Scott in 2014 unless Donald Trump relocates to Mar-a-Lago and throws his hat in the ring.

But Scott deserves some credit for what is happening in Florida.

Florida’s unemployment rate in March was lower than the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, a key benchmark that shows Florida’s recovery may finally be speeding up after months of lagging behind the nation as a whole.

That may not be enough to see him re-elected, but it’s enough for me to agree with his campaign bumper sticker: “It’s working.”


Peter Schorsch, a political consultant based in St. Petersburg, publishes and edits the Florida political blog SaintPetersBlog.com. Readers can contact Schorsch at saintpeter4@gmail.com.

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