The seventh stop in Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s “victory lap” across the state was in one of his political strongholds: Jacksonville.
The Monday appearance, at the Mudville Grille in Arlington, was an appropriate venue. Known for its hamburgers, it is a great place to serve up red meat for the Republican faithful.
The crowd was heavily insider. City councilmen, such as Matt Schellenberg, Don Redman, and Bill Gulliford, along with Council members-elect Al Ferraro and Anna Brosche. A healthy representation from Northeast Florida’s delegation to Tallahassee also, including Janet Adkins, Charles McBurney, Lake Ray III, and Jay Fant, were also there. Not to mention Mayor-elect Lenny Curry.
The dynamic between Scott and Curry was noteworthy. Their interplay was natural and convivial, as you would expect from two politicians whose fortunes are effectively yoked. The respect and affection Curry has for Scott was apparent, with his description of the governor as a man who gets up at dawn and thinks of the taxpayer, and goes to sleep at night, thinking of the taxpayer.
Scott served as master of ceremonies, making everyone on the stage with him look good with his quips and introductions, as he introduced the various state legislators so they could say a few words, from Ray to Adkins, and McBurney to “Landslide Jay Fant.” Scott’s gotten really good at the common touch, and media events such as Monday’s (which celebrate tax cuts that will save the average Floridian $20 a year) allow him to reach back to the common man.
Scott talked about how most people “grew up in families that didn’t have a lot of money,” trumpeting the tax cuts as a way to “make sure you get some of your money back every year.”
“How many people like tax cuts? Pick up your cellphone; this is your tax cut,” he said, before the crowd went into a seemingly spontaneous “Cut My Taxes” chant.
“I like tax cuts,” Governor Scott said. “That’s what I ran on in 2010.”
State Sen. Aaron Bean said, “It’s exciting when you come [to town], governor, because one of two things happen.”
Those things are new jobs or new tax breaks.
“Tax cuts don’t just happen; they happen because of leadership,” Bean said.
The dysfunction of the Legislative Session apparently faded with sine die, and the Republicans were able to point to successes: saving UF Health, funding for the ferry, and Curry getting over to Tallahassee and getting seed money for new cops in Jacksonville.
Speaking of UF Health, Fant made the explicit connection between Scott going to Washington, D.C., to get money for the Low-Income Pool Pool and the tax cuts. He and McBurney were especially fulsome in their praise for Scott.
For those wondering whether Scott will be able to finish strong in his second term, events like Monday’s go a long way toward answering that question. Every media event from here on in has to be seen as an effort in personal branding. As long as the macroeconomic conditions allow him to count victories on the scoreboard, and then celebrate them as happened on Monday, Scott is better positioned than anyone for a Senate run in a few years.