After hearing the accounts of the first Florida gubernatorial debate today, I came to the conclusion that Rick Scott is a lot like the New York Yankees: a lot of money to built the team, some early success in the polls...but even a big budget doesn’t guarantee success every game or every season.
The political press, like the media everywhere is obsssed with money. The Florida governor’s race is no exception. Rick Scott has spent -- and spent, and spent and spent -- millions to snatch the Republican nomination from Bill McCollum. But as the race comes down to the wire, I’ve noticed a few things about Rick Scott that make me wonder if the race is as in-the-bag as his extremely well-paid consultants are spinning.
Consider the New York Yankees. Yes, they’ve always had the budget to pick and choose the players they want and are the greatest team in baseball history. Now many folks will complain that they bought their 27 championships…well if that were the case, they’d have far more than 27 World Series rings.
(Remember the 2001 World Series where Mariano Rivera uncharacteristically lost the lead...botton of the 9th, final game?) Lately, as Scott has been forced to campaign actively, you can see there are some cracks in the picture. His bus trip was full of small, unforced errors, from the "birther" debacle to unanswered questions to numerous unanswered questions....even by his own mother!
Why a man with decades of experience as a businessman is so scared of debates tells me something. The McCollum team offered 4 debates, and Scott spent months running from them. My personal opinion is that Rick Scott doesn’t want to have a video clip from the debates of him trying to explain away why his company was involved in the worst Medicare fraud case in American history. It's easy to defend in a commercial, but not so easy in a debate where anything can and does happen.
You can’t buy the perfect team; the chemistry has to be there. The talent, the coach and the staff – all need to be in sync, without that, you’ve simply got a roster full of expensive, ineffective players. My friends in Florida tell me that almost everyone working on Scott's campaign comes out of the DC political world in a state as complicated as Florida, ground game still counts.
I also wonder if Rick Scott is really thinking things through when it comes to running purely as an outsider. It’s one thing to be an outsider...it’s another to pick fights for no reason. He’s certainly picking a lot of fights with people like Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani and the leaders of the Florida Legislature. These are all people with a long memory and Scott will need the support of many of them in the coming years if he’s elected governor. In New York, I’ve seen a $40,000 a year staffer stop a billionaire’s project dead in it’s tracks, so Scott may want to keep that in mind.
But back to money.
Rick Scott is a self-funded candidate whose tremendous spend bought him a place in the game, but it still hasn’t really closed the sale with base Republicans. The number of undecided voters in every poll -- even the ones showing him up -- is keeping his consultants awake at night..and after $25 million dollars. What that tells me is real conservative voters aren't sold with his inconsistent messaging despite how many times they see an ad.
Aside from the vague “accountability budgeting” message, his campaign seems to have entered a position where it’s defined only by negative attacks on McCollum and playing defense on his own record.
Rick Scott is right about one thing: this isn’t the year of the career politician...but it’s also not a year where the public tolerates fraud or hypocrisy. The problem for Rick Scott is that his personal history is THE issue in the campaign. I don’t need to go too far into the HCA story -- practically everyone has heard it by now -- but you can go through the details yourself.
A few issues that I’m surprised attracted less notice: By taking over $60 million dollars of Barack Obama's stimulus money, Rick Scott might as well have joined Charlie Crist on stage for the famous Hug.
Or maybe it’s his famous dance moves…