When Charlie Crist yelled “No Mas” against Rubio and jumped the GOP ship a couple weeks ago, the hissing sound you heard was all the excitement of the anticipated 24 August primary escaping into the atmosphere. Couple this with the surprisingly low turnout in this weeks primaries, and what you have is the probable fact that the turnout for Florida’s 24 August primary will be surprisingly low. (Warning to All Republicans: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch).
What does this mean for the race for the Republican Florida Governor’s nomination? It means that whoever can drum up the most enthusiasm, coupled with who can put on the most TV Ads (sorry folks, those 30 second soundbites DO win elections) stands a damn good chance of winning.
Bill McCollum has nearly 100% name recognition among likely Florida Republican voters. That’s Good. What bodes ill for McCollum is that he is having a bad time breaking the 40% amongst the same said Republicans. In brutal terms, 60% of likely Florida Republican Voters know of Bill McCollum and will not vote for him if there is an alternative, ANY alternative. That is more than just BAD for McCollum, it SUCKS for him. He has been in Florida politics forever and people are hungry for something different in their Republican Nominee.
Paula Dockery had a chance early on, but for lack of funds and possibly charisma, has missed the boat. There is NO way she will win this race. Her refusal to support SB6 (the Frankenstein Education Bill that sought to curb costs) was, in my opinion, more of an effort to curry favor from the Teachers Union than any real principled stand. And with the oil spill, her opposition to SB6 has completely lost any limelight she had hoped to garner. Such is fate.
Enter Rick Scott. He is rich, looks to be in incredible shape, has a picture perfect family and hits all the conservative talking points, straight down the line. He can rightly say he changed the face of how American Medicine is administered and he did it with a single minded, ruthless efficiency. With all the gusto of Adam Smith, he used his role as entrepreneur to make Hospitals in the marketplaces he entered more effective and less wasteful. Did he hurt some peoples feelings..yes. Was an emphasis put on getting more productivity out of less resources ? Yes. Was there an increase in quality care? He would argue that by making the hospitals less wasteful and by getting rid of the excess beds, he freed up more money for more complex and expensive diagnostic tools and processes to be made available to the communities he served. He rewarded Administrators who increased profits and efficiency. Just like any other business. The marketplace rewards success and Rick Scott was successful.
Allow me to digress and put a personal note on this. 3 years ago, I was with my son attending space camp in Huntsville, Alabama. I started feeling like crap on a Friday and by Saturday night, I thought I had a bad case of the stomach flu. I popped an Ambian to sleep, but I was in so much pain, I couldn’t. I was with a school group and one of my best Friends was also there with his daughter and he was a doctor. As I lay there moaning and swearing I wanted to go home to Florida, he came in, touched my gut, looked me square in the eye and told me he was taking me to the emergency room. I swore no, but he made me go. I drunkenly stumbled into the emergency room, half zonked, half in pain at exactly 10:00 PM. By 3:00 AM I was having my appendix taken out and by noon the next day I was back in my hotel room. Exactly 14 hours from start to finish. I was amazed. I asked my surgeon if he came in especially for me and he said “We are in competition with another Hospital” for business and said that they have a staff on call 24/7. 3:00 AM is just like 3:00 PM to them and they aim to get the patient in and out as fast as possible. It decreases the patients’ cost and increases the hospital’s profit by freeing up another bed.
I am sure that if you asked Rick Scott, he could explain the business and financial philosophy behind this and why it makes for better and more efficient hospitals. He should know, for from what I have read, he pioneered the concept and got rich doing it. That is what Rick Scott did.
Here is where I start to use information from The St Pete Times. The most widely circulated story about Rick Scott was that he had to retire after his company was fined 1.7 billion dollars for miss-billing Medicare in 1997. This is a false claim, but don’t ask me, read the St. Pete Times at the beginning of the Blog. While the investigation may have started while Scott was CEO in 1997, the fines occurred 3 years after Scott resigned. Also, It is my bust for not reading first Mr. Scott’s account on his own website where he clearly states that while things might have happened on his watch, the fines occurred well after his resignation.
The St. Pete Times and Miami Herald go on to say, that Mr. Scott was never contacted or interviewed by authorities after his resignation, period. Some of the illegal activity occurred when HCA was not part of Columbia when The Frist family of Tennessee (yes Former Senator Bill Frist’s family) owned that and some may have occurred at Scotts Columbia. When the companies merged in 1994, Scott was made CEO.
Now a few executives were indicted and two were convicted, but even these two had their convictions overturned. Fines were paid in 2000 and 2002. While some would call it fraud, but in fairness, lots of major medical hospitals have payed fines for running afoul of the Medicare rules. Rick Scott would probably tell you the reason his former company got the largest fine was because it was the biggest Hospital conglomerate in the US. It is all a question of scale.
Also, When all the dust settled, guess who eventually became sole owners of Columbia/HCA (Now just HCA)..That’s right… The Frist family conglomerate. So Mr. Scott’s resignation was probably as much over boardroom politics as it was a federal investigation, an investigation he apparently was never a target in and was never interviewed by authorities. But, like a Captain of a Ship, even if you are asleep in the bunk when your Officer-of-the-Deck runs into another ship, you take the fall. Part of the job. Also, the 80’s -90’s were known for their boom times and mergers and acquisitions were all the rage. How many of the fraud problems were inherited by Scott when he was building his business, I do not know. But I bet, quite a few.
Enough history lessons: While Mr. Scott was never in any danger of going to jail, Bill McCollum has awoken from his slumber and has realized that Rick Scott is a serious threat.. So he has taken to demonize Rick Scott, making it seem like he barely escaped prison. This is the Art of the “Big Lie” Say it often enough and loud enough (like Obama does) and people (and newspapers) believe it. For once, kudos to the St. Pete’s time for fact checking it. (You have no idea how much it hurt me to write that last sentence… I am NOT a fan of the MSM)
However the story of the civil fine, as a political bludgeons goes, is of first class caliber. Rick Scott knows this and has defended his conduct in the press. This takes more than a pair of brass cajones, this takes cajones made out of Neutron Stars. Say what you will, the man seems to have the stuff to make the hard financial decisions that Florida faces during these times and probably can take on Obamacare without a teleprompter (He has already done it with the founding of “Conservatives for Patients Rights“)
Bottom Line: He is already leading Alexis Sink in head-to-head match ups (she knows he is a threat and is already bashing him over the Medicare fine) and is rapidly gaining on McCollum (who is probably in full “flop sweat” mode) who seems stuck at 40% of the Republican Vote.
With the Rubio/Crist war postponed till November and the now probable light turnout, Rick Scott, with his outsider status and deep pockets, is poised for an upset. The question is, can he defuse the issue of the 1.7 billion dollar fine for the primary and connect with the Republican grassroots? More importantly, if he wins in August, can he withstand the negative onslaught that will be launched by Sink during the general election?
It is, to say the least, a complicated story, and in today’s world of political sound bites, does not lend itself to easy explanation… However, the sound bite politics works great for the user of the “Big Lie”. Rick Scott needs to go hardball on this issue and fight fire with fire against McCollum and then Sink.
If he does win I suspect despite the Scott’s easy charm and picture perfect family, Florida will have one ruthless SOB who will be willing to cut through the political and bureaucratic morass that awaits, like Grendal, for our next Governor.
One can only hope….