A modest tip: Don't bet against Scott in 2014
Bill CotterellFlorida politics is full of ironies and unintended consequences.
Published: December 5, 2012
Published: December 5, 2012
So it's not surprising that a big shift made by mostly Old South Democrats a half-century ago will help Republican Rick Scott, one of the nation's least-popular governors, keep his job in two years. Despite dismal poll numbers, Scott has a lot going for him in 2014.
First, the best advantage anyone can have is incumbency. Governors make news just by showing up. Their policies can be spun into bumper stickers and campaign ads; any dissent within their parties is politely snuffed; and, best of all, the smart money flows their way.
His message will be the same as it was in 2010 — jobs. In his first two years as governor, Scott has been stamping out the corporate income tax, deepening Florida ports, cutting business regulations and concentrating the state's education policies in "STEM" areas — science, technology, engineering and math — that he's convinced will make Florida, in his oft-used term, "the number-one place in the world to do business."
His first day in office, he put the state's jet and two old prop-driven planes on the auction block. He has reduced the size of the state work force, advocated (but not produced) an Arizona-style immigration law, linked teachers' jobs and raises to student test scores and signed laws requiring drug testing of state employees and welfare recipients. He's made employees chip into the government pension pot, as workers in the private sector pay for theirs, and has seen unemployment drop from 11.1 to about 8 percent.
Last week, he came up with his $10,000 tuition plan for state colleges to find ways to hold down costs and crank out graduates with job-related skills. Democrats and the teacher unions (pardon the redundancy) sneered at "the Wal-Martization of education," but they would deride anything Scott advocates.
What they're overlooking is, Wal-Mart works. Like it or not, it does what it sets out to do.
The Democrats just carried the state for President Obama and made major gains in Congress, while picking up seats in the Legislature. But their best bet for governor is a retread Republican, Charlie Crist, who isn't even officially a Democrat yet.
And when the Democrats get a nominee, what do they promise? To restore corporate taxes, eliminate drug testing and pension payments for public employees? Maybe not make college cheaper?
The Democrats aren't dead. Maybe Obama's second term will defy all odds, and he'll be wildly popular in the midterms. Maybe Scott's popularity will remain low. But if timing is everything in politics, he certainly has that on his side.
Bill Cotterell is a retired Capitol reporter who worked for United Press International and the Tallahassee Democrat. He can be contacted at email@example.com