Bill Nelson – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Email Insights: FEA lays into Rick Scott’s record on education

In a Monday email, the Florida Education Association said Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t deserve the vote of anyone who cares about public education.

The email, sent out hours after Scott announced his U.S. Senate campaign, said the two-term governor “has been a real dud” when it comes to strengthening public education.

The teacher union dinged Scott for cutting per-pupil funding in public schools and for adding testing days with the first bill he signed into law as governor. More recently, the group takes umbrage with his approval of HB 7055, the 2018 education bill that contains a union-busting provision aimed at FEA.

“A candidate who cares so little about our public schools — and our students, teachers and staff — doesn’t deserve another job on the public dime,” FEA said in the email.

Also taking Scott to task was FEA President Joanne McCall, who said: “Rick Scott may be hoping that education voters get a case of amnesia at the ballot box this fall, but we will not forget.”

“We will stand against candidates who have harmed public education, whether they’re running in a local race or for federal office.”

Scott is running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for the Senate seat. He is the only major Republican in the race.

Donald Trump expected to loom over Rick Scott-Bill Nelson battle

More than $100 million will likely be spent during the next seven months as two of Florida’s top elected officials go head-to-head in the mid-term contest for a spot in the U.S. Senate.

The long-anticipated contest in which Gov. Rick Scott will try to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson became official on Monday.

Key issues that could shape the contest include the mass shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and hurricanes Irma and Maria.

But a third man not in the ring, President Donald Trump, is expected to play a pivotal role throughout the campaign.

Alex Patton, a Republican political consultant from Gainesville, simply called the contest a “proxy battle” about Trump.

“No issue will take as much importance other than, ‘Will you support Trump?’ ” Patton said. “Hell, I’m not sure it’s even about supporting Trump’s agenda — it’s about do you support him.”

Scott formally entered the race Monday with an announcement in Orlando, and the contest is considered one of the keys to control of the U.S. Senate.

Neither Nelson nor Scott would be described as overly charismatic.

Scott, 65, is in his eighth year as the state’s top executive. Nelson, 75, the only statewide elected Democrat, is completing his third term in the Senate.

Susan MacManus, a political-science professor at the University of South Florida, said the race will be “highly nationalized.”

“By Election Day, Floridians will be thinking Trump and (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi are on the ballot along with (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and (House Speaker) Paul Ryan,” MacManus said. “Florida Democrats have warned the party not to focus too much on Trump. But for other Democrats, all they need is to see the strong connections between Scott and Trump.”

The Nelson-Scott contest will be a marquee event in Florida on a ballot that also will feature a governor’s race, contests for the three statewide Cabinet positions and potentially more than a dozen proposed constitutional amendments.

Scott’s history suggests he will attack Nelson aggressively as “a liberal and ineffective,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the University of Central Florida.

“Scott will also emphasize his role in restoring the Florida economy in terms of jobs and growth and probably seek to portray himself as successfully dealing with the Parkland shooting and the nursing home deaths in South Florida,” Jewett said, referring to deaths after Hurricane Irma. “Nelson will attack Scott for his ties to President Trump over and over again and also on nursing home deaths after the hurricane and for not doing enough in the aftermath of the Parkland gun deaths. Nelson will point to his moderate-to-progressive record on a variety of issues that are frequently more in step with Florida public opinion.”

Historic trends show the party that lost the White House in the previous election having a strong mid-term surge. Democrats playing up a “blue wave” in November will have to retain Nelson’s seat to have any hope of reclaiming a majority in the Senate.

The Democratic group American Bridge 21st Century anticipates Scott will revert to digging into his own bank account to offset any backlash against the White House.

Scott spent at least $73 million of his own money to win his first campaign and another $13 million four years later. His closely aligned state political committee Let’s Get to Work burned through $5.8 million after the 2016 contest to mostly promote his agenda.

Nelson’s re-election committee has just over $8 million on hand and minutes before Scott’s announcement on Monday sent out an email saying, “The only way we’re going to defeat Rick Scott and protect Florida’s Senate seat is if everyone — and I mean everyone — gives $5 or more right now.”

Patton said even with “oodles and oodles” of money flowing into a Senate contest, which is considered a toss-up by most political prognosticators, the Nelson-Scott match will “pale in comparison” to feelings about Trump.

“Trump will drown everything else out,” Patton said.

Calling the Trump-factor “huge,” Jewett said Democrats appear unified in their dislike of Trump.

“Scott must walk a fine line when it comes to President Trump,” Jewett said. “Scott must not alienate the Trump voters — without them he has little chance of victory — but on the other hand probably will not appear personally with Trump and (will) seek to make the election about the incumbent Nelson rather than a referendum on Trump, which will be difficult to do.”

The governor was an early endorser of Trump and chairs the New Republican PAC, which has raised money for the president. Scott has also embraced their friendship on issues such as securing funding to speed work to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and getting the Trump administration to issue a statement that Florida would be removed from offshore drilling plans.

Trump during public events repeatedly encouraged Scott to run for the Senate.

However, the governor has on occasion tried to put some distance between himself and Trump, such as when the president used a vulgar slur to disparage Haiti and African nations or when Scott urged Congress to extend the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program for children who are undocumented immigrants.

None of that means the opposing parties won’t zero in on the rival candidates.

Democrats have already focused on low and stagnant wages to counter Scott’s job-growth narrative. Playing up companies that have handed out bonuses or pay increases, Republicans have gone after Nelson for voting against a federal tax overhaul approved by Congress last year. Nelson criticized the tax bill as being unfair in favor of corporations.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has long focused on Nelson, including portraying him as working for “Washington liberals.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last week set up a website called “Self-serving Scott” that seeks to delegitimize Scott’s improved poll numbers.

Nelson and Scott share one part of their political pasts: They both beat Republican Bill McCollum, a former congressman and state attorney general.

Nelson, a Florida native, defeated McCollum in 2000 to move into the U.S. Senate and later defeated former U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris and former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV in his 2006 and 2012 re-election bids.

Nelson has lost only one contest since first appearing on a ballot in 1972 when he ran for the state House. He fell to former Gov. Lawton Chiles in the 1990 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Scott, a former health care executive who settled in Naples, upset McCollum, the party establishment pick, in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010. Amid Republican waves, he defeated then-state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the 2010 general election and former Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2014 election.

In recent months, Democrats, able to focus on special-election contests since Trump’s 2016 victory, have won a number of races nationally in areas carried by Trump. That includes a state House district in Sarasota County that was won by Democrat Margaret Good.

Economic impact of defense in Florida? It’s big, naval regional commander says

The Sunshine State is a hotbed of military activity and in turn, defense spending takes up a decent-sized portion of the state’s economic tally, according to one of the Navy’s top-ranking members.

Rear Admiral Babette “Bette” Bolivar, commander of Navy Region Southeast, spoke to the Economic Club of Florida Monday in Tallahassee. She’s one of two female regional commanders overseeing the 11-unit shore-based organizational structure. 

As expected, much of her discussion focused on economics.

Citing figures from an Enterprise Florida-conducted study of defense spending, Bolivar said that military activity was responsible for $84.9 billion of Florida’s Gross State Product, a little more than 9 percent of all economic activity in 2016. 

The figure factored in procurement, salaries, and pensions or transfer payments “for all those retired veterans who come to settle in the state,” Bolivar said.

Defense spending, Bolivar said, “increased jobs in every Florida county.”

“Most of those jobs are high-wage positions,” she added.

Bolivar, who oversees 18 installations spanning locales in Texas to Guantanamo Bay, said the Navy, specifically, is an economic driver in Florida. Seven installations are peppered across the state, the largest of which, Naval Air Station Pensacola, employs more than 22,000 military and civilian personnel. 

“The real heart of the naval air station is the training,” added Bolivar. She said more than 59,000 members of the military and foreign allies graduate from training programs each year in Pensacola.

Combined with Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Bolivar said, the two Panhandle installations are the “backbone of the naval aviation training pipeline.”

At Whiting Field, 60 percent of all primary and fixed-wing naval aviators receive their training. Every helicopter pilot in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard also is trained at the base.

Another Panhandle base, Naval Support Activity Panama City, has an estimated economic impact of $673 million. It’s the second-largest employer in Bay County, ranked right after Tyndall Air Force Base.

During a brief question and answer session, Bolivar was asked by a member what “the future of Florida bases” looks like, given potential future cutbacks.

Responded Bolivar: “I would say that we’re pretty safe.”

She then gave a nod to Gov. Rick Scott, along with Florida’s U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

“Between Gov. Scott and our senators, we have so much support in this state — it’s amazing,” Bolivar said. Her last regional operation was headquartered in Guam, where she said the culture was different. There is support there for the military, but it’s coupled with some opposition.

Since she’s taken over the Southeast headquarters in Jacksonville, “it’s been nothing but great support from the community and the state.”

Audrey Gibson pans Rick Scott Senate launch, lauds ‘moderate’ Bill Nelson

Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, excoriated Gov. Rick Scott upon his U.S. Senate campaign launch Monday.

“Rick Scott cannot erase seven years of leaving behind my constituents and others throughout this state and now try to take his same show to Washington. His jobs incentive programs have not provided real jobs to the average Floridian because he counts failed potential job creation as a Florida job,” Gibson said.

“A real job is not an alternative fact. His latest slush fund scheme (the Florida Job Growth Fund) of doling out money has fallen short of long-term job creation with little to no reach deep into communities where unemployment and community development remains an issue,” Gibson added.

Gibson went on to note that Scott’s record of job creation wouldn’t have happened without “stimulus money” from President Barack Obama.

“Rick Scott backtracked on his promise and refused to expand Medicaid, hurting millions of Floridians and financially strapping the hospitals who take care of them in emergency rooms at a much higher cost. But what does he care,” Gibson said. “He made his money in a hospital scam and refused to testify about the details.”

“Scott has refused to consider raising wages so that families can survive in a very service industry state and supported policies that grossly undermine public education including cutting education funding and touting a .47 cent increase in base student allocation as an historic increase,” Gibson added.

“And lest we forget Scott hid from responsibility for the lives of seniors lost in South Florida and the over a year of not providing information to FEMA to collect millions in Hurricane Matthew funds even after Hurricane Irma hit. Floridians cannot afford Rick Scott anymore,” Gibson added. “Our families and our quality of life deserve better.”

Much of Gibson’s press availability was dedicated to criticism of Scott, in keeping with Democratic events like this in major metros throughout the state today.

“There really wasn’t a message delivered by Gov. Scott in Orlando,” Gibson said, finding it ironic that Scott was introduced by the Lt. Gov of Puerto Rico since Florida was “very slow” in lending the territory help after Irma.

“The first thing the Governor said this morning was that he was not going to ‘fit in’ to Washington,” Gibson said, noting that he may not fit in given his advocacy of term limits for Congress on Monday.

Scott’s relationship with President Donald Trump, Gibson asserted, is something voters should “definitely” consider, given Trump’s lack of “decorum” and “predictability.”

Besides, Gibson joked, Trump may not be President for very much longer.

As well, Gibson doubted Scott’s ability to be a “consensus builder,” which “moderate” Bill Nelson has been for years.

“He may not necessarily characterize himself that way,” Gibson said of Nelson as a moderate, but lauded his ability to “build a bridge” and bring “balance to his position as a Senator.”

Additionally, Scott is as much a “career politician” as Nelson, Gibson said, given that he’s running for one office from another.

Rick Scott

Email insights: State workers blast Rick Scott for ‘record of failure’

AFSCME said in a Monday email that Gov. Rick Scott’s announcement he would run for U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson was met with “fear and disgust” by state employees.

“Not once as governor did Scott take the lead in investing in Florida’s services and those who provide them. He looked at the men and women who wake up every day and make Florida happen as his enemy,” said AFSCME, which represents 100,000 Florida workers.

“His policies had such a dramatically negative impact on the state that even he had to sign into law, and in some cases even propose, greater investment in those who interact with some of the state’s more vulnerable citizens.”

Ketha Otis, a Vocational Rehabilitation Technician and president of AFSCME Local 2862, said that she and her fellow state employees are not going to let the two-term governor “falsely portray his slash and burn record.”

Otis slammed Scott for pursuing “partisan goals” and bringing low-paying jobs to the Sunshine State in the wake of the Great Recession.

“Instead of creating the jobs our state needs for the future, over half the counties in Florida are worse off today than before the recession. Where jobs have been created, Scott’s policies have ensured they expand our state’s working poor, creating even greater demand for assistance even as his policies shred our public safety net,” Otis said.

“As you would expect, it takes a lot to keep our state moving forward. That task falls to the hardworking men and women who never quit serving our communities. But Rick Scott’s Florida invests half the national average, leading to underfunded and overworked agencies unable to meet the demands of today, let alone plan for the challenges of tomorrow. If he were to become a backbencher in the U.S. Senate, it would put too much of our national future at stake.”

Otis closed out the email by praising Nelson’s “distinguished bipartisan record.”

“Florida, and our country, faces too many challenges to lose his voice from the U.S. Senate. That is why workers like me will be spending our free time to help him win,” she said.

Rick Scott: I don’t intend to fit in

Gov. Rick Scott sought to reclaim his image as an outsider when he announced Monday morning in Orlando that he is running for the U.S. Senate.

Scott ended more than a year of little suspense as he formally announced his Republican bid for the Senate seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. He did so on the eighth anniversary of his announced run as a true outsider for the Florida’ governor’s office, and made it clear he’s intending to capture that same tone.

On Monday Scott made no specific references to Nelson, though he railed against career politicians, a label Nelson can wear as someone who’s been in public office since the 1970s. And he made no reference at all to President Donald Trump, whose unpopularity could become Scott’s greatest challenge with voters who know the president and governor have been close.

Instead, he chose to turn back the clock to 2010 when he came out of no where, talked  of nothing but jobs, brushed aside Florida’s Republican establishment, and then won the governor’s office. He even finished his announcement rally Monday with his trademark slogan from that campaign, shouting, “Let’s get to work!”

Scott made his announcement in front of a couple of hundred supporters crowded into the warehouse area of ODC Construction in Orlando.

“When you go to Tallahassee and make real change, guess what happens? The first they are is mad at you. They say you don’t fit into Tallahassee. I think that’s true,” Scott said. “I didn’t fit in in Tallahassee because I didn’t play the insider game. I never intended to fit into Tallahassee. And guess what? I’m not going to fit into Washington either.”

Scott repeatedly called for “shaping up” Washington, and he even called for term limits, something that apply to Nelson, who’s seeking his fourth term representing Florida in the U.S. Senate.

Other than the term-limits support and pledging to continue his jobs push, Scott made no promises and offered few policy statements or philosophies. He did not meet with the media, though he did answer a couple questions shouted at him as he pressed through the throng to leave after his speech.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said when asked about getting back on the campaign trail. “I’m going to work hard to get my message out. I’ll be coming out with a variety of proposals over the next several months. It starts with: we’ve got to get rid of career politicians.”

Nelson responded earlier Monday with a written statement: “I’ve always run every race like there’s no tomorrow – regardless of my opponent. While it’s clear that Rick Scott will say or do anything to get elected, I’ve always believed that if you just do the right things, the politics will take care of itself.”

Scott declined to comment on Nelson.

“We have a record of getting things done in this state. I’m going to take that same record to D.C. We’ve got change the national economy like we’ve done with the Florida economy, and that’s what I’m going to take there. It’s a can-do attitude that says we’re going to get our country back to work,” Scott said instead.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pre-buts Rick Scott’s Senate launch

Just hours before Rick Scott officially launches his U.S. Senate run, Democrats are pulling out all the stops, offering a glimpse of the contentious race to come this November.

In a last-minute email Sunday evening, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released its most pejorative attacks yet against Florida’s Republican Governor — who is launching his challenge Monday morning against three-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

It is the first of what is expected to be several memos in a series called “Fast Facts About Rick Scott & The Florida Senate Race.”

The DSCC blasted Scott as not only “self-serving and dishonest” but also the “state’s worst governor in the last half-century,” painting him as someone looking only for himself at Floridians’ expense.

In a statement from DSCC Executive Director Mindy Myers (sent to all “interested parties”), Scott’s past seven years in office left Florida counties losing jobs and wages, putting them at the “bottom of the nation,” all while he made himself “$46 million richer.”

What’s more, Myers accused Scott of funneling his fortune “through a secret financial account to hide his corruption,” a reference to the controversial blind trust he was required to set up upon assuming the Governor’s mansion.

This will not cut it as a Senate candidate, Myers said. She promised this record — as well as the “favors he’s done as governor to enrich himself” — will be the dominant issue in the early days of his Senate campaign.

Myers also warned that Scott’s time governor will serve as a “liability,” particularly the 14 seniors who died in the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills catastrophe during Hurricane Irma, as well as last month’s Florida International University bridge collapse and his tendency to “blame others” for the failures leading up to the Parkland shooting Valentine’s Day, where 17  people died at the hands of a former student.

In addition, the Democrats served up a litany of Scott’s transgressions: “lying” about expanding Medicaid, backing oil drilling near Florida’s shores and beaches — even after the Deepwater Horizon disaster — and wasting millions of tax dollars on “self-serving legal bills” that supports state Republican’s health care and tax agenda, which “raise costs for Floridians while giving himself a tax break.”

Myers points out that in each of his campaigns for Governor, Scott “never won by more than a point.”

In the upcoming months, Myers said Scott will have difficulty matching Nelson’s record of “putting Florida first,” where he attracted a “broad, deep coalition” for every one of his campaigns.

Myers also made note of the national political environment, which is expected to offer strong headwinds for the GOP, predicting the Scott administration’s failures and a hostile political environment “will all cripple his campaign.”

So, even before the campaign begins in earnest, Democrats clearly have knives out, in a struggle to gain the upper hand in the Senate scrum. Whether it is ultimately successful remains to be seen.

Rick Scott’s third career act

Rick Scott, who is about to formally declare his campaign Monday to become Florida’s next U.S. Senator, is a man whose life has twice defined The American Dream.

Scott still frequently tells the story of how he rose from a working-class childhood spent partly in the projects to pursue a Navy career, then work his way through a college education, a law degree, and, finally, overwhelming success and fortune in the business world.

And then he showed that a man willing to spend $73 million of his own fortune and stay laser-focused on a single, resonate issue – let’s get to work – can rise from absolute political obscurity in a matter of months to blow away the party’s establishment, and then get elected governor of one of the biggest, most complex states in America.

His third act might make those against-all-odds aspirations seem easy. Now he wants to defeat Florida’s most popular Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, in a time when almost every Republican with close ties to President Donald Trump has lost or at least dramatically underperformed in recent elections.

“Any other year, Scott would beat Nelson. But with this trend, he’s about as tied to the president as anybody, how does he get around that?” mused pollster Doug Kaplan of Gravis Marketing.

This undoubtedly will be the national marquee matchup of the 2018 elections. Florida’s seat is the biggest in play in the battle for the U.S. Senate. Trump needs a big election win this year. Already, Democratic and Republican national groups are weighing in, and Scott’s not even officially a candidate yet. Come autumn, any political organization with a few tens of millions of dollars to spend is going to want to spend a lot of that in Florida.

“Enormous amounts. It’s going to be large, large amounts, because, as frequently is the case, this Florida race has national implications,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. “There’s only maybe about six or seven U.S. Senate races that are going to be competitive, and Florida is right at the top of the heap as one of those races. So Republicans would dearly love to knock off a Democrat and make a gain, not just hold a Republican seat, but actually gain a seat. If they did that it would be virtually impossible for Democrats to gain control of the Senate.”

Scott and Nelson are as much of known quantities as Florida voters will ever get in a big race.

Eight years ago Scott ran for governor on a promise of jobs, period. In practice, once he was in office, that broke down to the whole agenda of business-friendly, conservative policy moves, cutting spending, cutting taxes, cutting regulations, handing the keys to boards and commissions to business interests. Seemingly almost nothing else mattered.

In the beginning of his first term those moves appeared harsh. Florida was in the throes of the Great Recession, so the cuts went deep. Schools laid off teachers. Community health and services programs shut down. Big transportation projections, notably the high-speed train envisioned to connect Orlando and Tampa, were cancelled.

Stunningly quickly, Scott’s popularity plummeted to lows not seen before in Florida. By his first spring in office, 2011, polls had his approval rating down around 30 percent, with disapproval ratings approaching 60 percent.

Those ratings improved only slightly and slowly over time. They remained underwater when Scott was re-elected in 2014, and for the most part stayed that way until this year. Even today, at best, he only flirts with majority popular approval.

Yet Florida’s economy went from bust to boom, with his administration claiming 1.5 million new private sector jobs since 2010. A Republican establishment that overtly didn’t like him at first rallied. The business sectors embraced him.

“Rick Scott has a singular, Terminator-style focus on jobs and the economy and he never, ever, ever breaks message,” said Republican strategist Rick Wilson. “For all the drama we go through in this state, what’s the big issue right now? Jobs and the economy still dominate every other subject.

“It’s not guns. It’s not immigration. It’s not any of the pet issues, left or right. It’s the economy,” Wilson continued. “If Rick Scott can draw this discussion onto the ground of what’s better for the economy and for Florida’s families, he has a tremendous opening, and probably one of the only openings in this country for a Republican to pick up one of the Senate seats.”

But if the Democrats have anything to say about it, and they’re likely to have many millions of dollars worth of that opportunity, much of the discussion will focus on Scott’s strong and consistent support for Trump.

Democratic strategist Steve Schale bears scars from 2010, when he advised Democrat Alex Sink’s failed campaign against Scott. The difference maker that year, he insists, was the wave of voter opposition to President Barack Obama.

“The thing I learned in 2010, the hard way, and certainly we learned it around the country, is when people want to send a message to an incumbent president, the only way they can do that in the midterm is through the people and the party on the ballot,” Schale said.

With this year’s mood, Schale added, “You’d much rather be Bill Nelson than Rick Scott.”

In person, Scott is affable, soft-spoken, civil, even friendly, never projecting mean-spiritedness or harsh rhetoric, at least never publicly. There is no Trump-like abrasiveness, or Bernie Sanders-style crustiness, perhaps due to the Terminator-style focus Wilson described.

Yet Scott also has physical appearance and mannerisms that have made people uncomfortable, whether he’s appearing in person or on TV. His bald-dome look [softened in more recent times with grandfatherly hints of silver hair on the sides and, often, a Navy ball cap] looked stark. His interactions with people could come off as standoffish. His laugh could be cringe-worthy.

“People say he looks like Voldemort. People think he’s awkward,” said Florida State University political scientist Robert Crews Jr., author of the book, “The 2010 Elections in Florida: It’s The Economy, Stupid!

In that book, Crews quotes the late Tom Slade, who had been Scott’s campaign co-chair, as saying that he gave Scott “an ‘A’ for strangeness.”

“This is not the kind of thing you want to get from your campaign chair,” Crews said. “So he’s kind of an odd personality.”

Floridians have gotten used to it, Wilson suggested.

“If Rick Scott is not the most natural, slick, sweet-talking politician, and he’s not, that’s OK,” Wilson said. “What’s not his brand? Backslapping bullshitter.”

There may be an age factor in his favor. Nelson is 75 and sometimes looks and sounds every bit of that. Scott is 65 and comes off as robust, even spry. That may not become an overt issue in the campaigns. But if Scott keeps up his routine of multiple trips, every week, always looking as if he’s on the move, Nelson will have to do likewise. November is a long seven months away.

Nelson also is among the most-traveled politicians anywhere, boasting that he gets to every county in the state during his terms. Just last week he was in Palatka, Jacksonville, Madison County, Port St. Joe, Tindall Air Force Base, and Orlando. He can put on the drawl and be at home in Marianna, or put on the ritz and be at home on Palm Beach.

“Always when I have an opponent I assume they are the toughest opponent and I run like there’s no tomorrow,” Nelson said last week.

But Scott may travel on a different level, popping up in two or three cities, two or three or four days a week, every week. Orlando, West Palm Beach. Miami. Ponce Inlet, Green Cove Springs. Fort Walton Beach. They all get their turns to see the governor come to town.

“The thing about Scott, he has long been underrated for his political skills,” Schale allowed. “He’s sort of been branded as the outsider, a little awkward, and all those things. The reality is, he’s a tireless worker.

“At the same time, I think Nelson is equally underrated. All Bill Nelson has done is won five consecutive statewide elections. His wins… they aren’t fancy. But I tell people he’s like a running back who just has a nose for the goal line,” Schale added.

Scott won both of his elections by razor-thin margins while spending more money than anyone has ever seen in a Florida state election. And the first time, he did so as an outsider to the Republican Party.

He was able to pay to establish what Crews said may have been the largest gubernatorial campaign ground game in state history, and flooded the Florida airwaves with very simple, appealing commercials, showing him getting into his SUV, slamming the door, and declaring, “Let’s get to work.”

“In the past, his clear asset has been the overwhelming amount of money he had, and I think that’s going to be a big factor this time,” Crews said. “If he can get the kind of distance between his campaign and Nelson’s campaign, that he got between his and Alex Sink’s, and between his and Charlie Crist‘s [in 2014.] the latest research in political science shows it’s the differential amounts between candidates that makes the biggest difference.”

Today, Scott starts almost from scratch in the money race, with, as of the latest reports at the end of 2017, about $900,000 in his New Republican political action committee and no official campaign account open yet. Nelson ended the year with $8 million in his official campaign and $43,000 in his Moving America Forward PAC.

Campaign money has never been a problem for Scott. Backed by his personal wealth, Scott’s campaigns and committees spent about $80 million to elect him in 2010; and, with enormous support from business interests the next time, they spent about $60 million to re-elect him in 2014. By contrast, Nelson spent less than $18 million, including money from his PAC, in his latest, 2012, re-election campaign.

The consensus of current polls has Scott getting into the race while running about four points behind Nelson.

Pollsters are doubtful that the landscape favors much improvement for him. There is the Trump factor; the mass migration of Puerto Ricans coming to Florida tends to register as independent voters, or, about a third of the time, as Democrats, but rarely as Republicans; and the divisive guns issue’s ability to mobilize angry young people, seemingly as strong in Florida as anywhere.

“There are certain things that matter in elections, things that have nothing to do with the candidates, [such as] how President Trump fares in the public eye, because you can’t fight a tide,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “The question is whether there will be a tide or not. I’m not saying there will be…. It’s not impossible, but it is often difficult to fight that tide.”

Democrats already have fired off a few rounds of some of their best ammo as warning shots, signaling even before Scott gets into the race that they’re prepared to make the campaign against him ugly negative.

Already, Democrats are calling attention to Scott’s personal wealth, investment and finances, and any conflicts of interest the Democrats can imply from his pro-business record; his potential mishandling of communications with nursing homes, combined with the horrific tragedy that took place at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma; his relative legislative inaction following Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre; his early deep cuts in funding for education, mental health and disability programs; his less-than-convincing record fighting against off-shore drilling; and his initial support for and then opposition of Medicaid expansion in Florida, among others.

We’ve got all of that loaded up, Democrats have been saying in recent weeks.

“Rick Scott is notorious for his dishonesty and for prioritizing his own self-serving politics at the expense of hardworking Floridians,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein declared, setting the tone.

Nelson has never been known for such negative campaigning, and even this year he may not have to resort to it. The outside groups will be happy to carry that load.

The same is true for Scott.

“With little to show for his time in Washington, other than his free ride to space as a congressman, it isn’t hard to see why Do-Nothing Democrat Bill Nelson is one of America’s least effective and most vulnerable Democrats,” observed Republican National Committee spokesperson Taryn Fenske.

But the Democrats’ most explosive ammunition likely is that with Trump’s name on it.

“There is plenty of video out there, plenty of statements out there, where Rick Scott says, ‘Rah, rah, Donald Trump.’ Those will be Democratic ads,” Wilson forecasted.

Rick Scott (likely) launching U.S. Senate run from Orlando

Gov. Rick Scott will make a “major announcement” tomorrow in Orlando at 10 a.m., almost certainly a launch of his Senate run against Sen. Bill Nelson.

The host facility: Offices of a local construction company, where Scott will gaggle, per an email from Scott for Florida.

In the afternoon, Scott moves on to Fort Myers for another local presser.

Expect Scott to host roll out events in other markets later in the week, such as the Hialeah event previously reported Tuesday.

The 65-year-old Republican is leaving the Governor’s Office in early 2019 and has ramped up criticism of Nelson in the past few months.

Nelson, who will turn 76 later this year, is currently the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida. He easily won his last two elections but many believe Scott will be his toughest opponent yet.

Hours before campaign launch, Senate Democratic PAC blasts ‘self-serving’ Rick Scott

With only hours away from Rick Scott’s highly anticipated U.S. Senate campaign launch, a super PAC dedicated to electing Democrats released a new digital ad highlighting the Republican Governor’s history of “self-serving at the expense of Floridians.”

Part of a six-figure digital campaign throughout the state, Senate Majority PAC produced the 30-second spot — “Won’t Look out for You” — outlining Scott’s track record, which began as a CEO of Columbia/HCA, a hospital company where he made millions while committing “Medicare fraud.”

The ad then discusses touches on Scott’s seven years as Governor, where he “raised Floridians property taxes and/education funding while giving massive tax breaks to corporations and multimillionaires like himself.”

“When his title was CEO,” the ad’s narrator says, “Rick Scott’s company defrauded taxpayers … When his title was governor, he cut 1.3 billion from education, raised property taxes … And refused federal health care aid that would’ve covered almost a million Floridians.”

“History has proved that if you want to predict how Rick Scott will act, figure out what will benefit his political career and his bank account,” said Senate Majority PAC President J.B. Poersch in a statement. “The list goes on and on — leading a company that defrauded taxpayers, rewarding state contracts to companies he had a financial interest in, slashing education funding and raising property taxes. With Rick Scott, taxpayers always take a bath while he reaps the benefits. Floridians see right through Rick Scott, and they know he cannot be trusted to look out for them in the Senate.”

On Monday morning, Scott is expected to announce his candidacy to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces re-election this year. For Republicans, Scott is considered one of the marquee names this cycle during which he will face what many believe is a challenging national environment for the GOP. In 2010, Scott — worth an estimated $150 million — spent $75 million of his own money to win his first term as governor, with another $13 million for his re-election in 2014.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons