Gov. Rick Scott took the oath of office for a second term at 12:09 p.m. Tuesday. The ceremony put an exclamation mark on Scott’s evolution from a Tea Party outsider who captured the governor’s mansion four years ago to a pillar of the GOP establishment; potential presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended the ceremony.
“There is absolutely great optimism here. I talked to a number of members of the legislature and the Supreme Court and there seems to be a great deal of optimism because of what’s happened in the last four years,” said Christie, who is chair of the Republican Governors Association which raised $18 million for Scott’s reelection campaign.
Scott campaigned for a second term on having fulfilled a 2010 campaign promise to get Florida working again. When he took office in January 2011 Florida’s unemployment rate was 11.1 percent and lawmakers faced a $3.6 billion state budget shortfall. Last month the state posted a jobless rate of 5.8 percent and economists project a $1 billion budget surplus.
“His reelection was a validation of the way he led,” said Brecht Heuchan of the Tallahassee-based data and consulting company Contributions Link.
Others point out many of the new jobs Scott takes credit for creating are part of natural growth and not Scott’s policies. And they add they are low paying; a recent United Way ALICE report found that 45 percent of Florida households have difficulty paying their monthly bills.
“As Rick Scott starts his second term, Floridians are wondering if this governor will do right by them — or if he will continue to side with big business and the wealthiest special interests,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “Florida Democrats hope Scott governs on behalf of all Floridians, because the people need this governor to put them first.”
Scott doesn’t intend to change his small government low tax policy. It’s based on a belief that capital flows to where it is welcome; states where taxes are low and regulations few.
In his inauguration speech Scott portrayed Florida as part of a great movement “fighting to limit the growth of government.”
“Florida gets stronger each year because we are fighting against a bloated government and increased regulations and higher taxes,” said Scott. “I can tell you from watching my parents struggle for work that if you want to change a life – get someone a job.”
It is a message that resonates with the GOP faithful as evidence by two of its 2016 potential presidential candidates traveling to Tallahassee to honor Scott on his second inauguration.
Among the potential field of 2016 candidates are fellow Floridians Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. If either were to stumble in the race then Florida goes up for grabs and Scott’s support could be crucial to whoever emerges as a Republican frontrunner.
“Perry and Christie correctly see Florida as a key electoral state and they are clearly positioning themselves in the event neither Bush or Rubio survive,” said Steve Vancore, a Tallahassee-based consultant. “Rick Scott’s support will be a very hot commodity.”
Scott, for his part put other states on notice that he intends to recruit their businesses and citizens to Florida.
“I have a message today to the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others: move to Florida,” Scott said Tuesday. “Over the next four years, I will be traveling to your states to personally recruit you here. In Florida, we are in the business of growing opportunity for families, not growing government.”
The four states Scott mentioned, along with Florida and Texas, send the biggest delegations to a Republican national convention.