From the outset, and especially over the last few weeks, I didn’t expect Rick Scott to win the primary. I wasn’t a vocal supporter of him, like I have been for Rubio. However, I did make up my mind pretty early and was glad to be able to vote for him. Here is a little timeline of the campaign from an “inside Florida” perspective.
The Early Campaign
Rick Scott’s campaign has focused almost exclusively on TV advertising. This is somewhat unusual, making the entire battle occur through TV advertising. News reports, web sites, flyers, and yard signs had almost no influence on the election.
Early on, Scott went on the air with a series of very good commercials. They were positive and uncompromising in their appeal to conservative principles. I remember looking at them and saying “Wow, those are good messages, too bad this guy doesn’t have a chance”. He also early on started taking on Obama and the healthcare legislation. Since he a spent a lot of money to star in the CFR commercials against Obamacare, he had a lot of credibility in this area.
Despite McCollum’s claims to the contrary, he went negative first. The first negative ads were attacking Scott for running the Columbia Hospital chain that settled the largest Medicare fraud settlement in history. While these commercials were not tied to the McCollum campaign, everyone who has experience with the Republican Party of Florida knows that the 527s are in an incestuous relationship with them and protect their own.
It was Rick Scott’s commercial responding to the attacks that pulled me off the fence and made me say, “Damn it, I’m going to vote for him anyway”. He went up with what I felt was a brave commercial where he accepted responsibility for mistakes made under his leadership, and talked about how he learned from them. It certainly worked with me. At that point, any negative advertisement about Medicare fraud fell on deaf ears. I had decided that it didn’t matter and was a political stunt anyway.
The 777 Plan
Throughout the campaign, Rick Scott was the only one who was able to articulate what he will do as Governor. McCollum was a little like Crist in that way. He couldn’t say why he wanted to be Governor, other than it was his turn. But Scott ran ads to tout his 777 plan, 7 ideas to bring 700,000 jobs to Florida in 7 years. Most of these ideas are core conservative principles, and they served to remind us that despite Republican control of the House and Senate, they are governing like tax and spend liberals (Sun rail, anyone?). Did we really want someone cut from the same cloth in Tallahassee, or did we want someone who would work in our interest. It helped that Chris Christie started kicking ass and taking names in New Jersey at the same time.
McCollum steps in it over Immigration
The final nail in Bill McCollum’s coffin occurred when Arizona passed their immigration law. McCollum did what politicians do, he made a political calculation. He looked at the size of the Hispanic population in Florida and took a position against the law. Worse, he stupidly commented about it on tape, giving Scott the fodder for another commercial. Scott immediately praised the law and vowed to bring similar legislation to Florida.
It wasn’t too long after this that McCollum realized his mistake and flip flopped his position. He didn’t realize how popular the Arizona law would be in Florida. But instead of using the strategy that Scott did with the Medicare charge, he tried to pretend that Scott was making a baseless attack and that he supports the Arizona law. This is while the ads with his voice saying “We don’t need that law in Florida, that isn’t going to happen here” are still running. It was a huge cognitive disconnect, and didn’t help McCollum at all. He could have come out and said that his initial reaction was wrong and upon reflection he had changed his mind. But without resolving the conflict between his word and his ads, it ended up insulting the intelligence of the voters.
In the end
This is an unusual year, and the voters are willing to give someone new a chance if they have a compelling message. McCollum seemed like more of the same, a career politician, supported by the RPOF machine, with lazy political instincts. Scott’s outsider credentials were helped by the campaign McCollum ran. The political stunt McCollum pulled having Scott served during the press conference was cheap theater and transparent.
At the end of the day, I was tired of the traditional BS and filled in the circle next to Scott’s name. Apparently, I wasn’t alone.