Lessons for Conservatives From the Rick Scott Campaign
A lot of people are going to want to put their head in the sand and claim Rick Scott bought the Florida GOP’s gubernatorial primary. The facts make it clear that this is nonsense.Yes, Rick Scott did spend $40 million. But more than $20 million was spent just to attack Rick Scott. Scott spent his money not just drawing very sharp contrasts with Bill McCollum, but selling an actual agenda.Scott ran as a conservative. He sold himself as a common sense businessman, as a pro-lifer, and as someone who could create jobs.The campaign was extremely contentious, extremely negative, and very hard fought. But the fact is Bill McCollum, the sitting statewide Attorney General, former congressman, and Clinton impeachment manager ran a campaign largely devoid of issues.McCollum had high name id, which Scott had to overcome with a large ad purchase. Scott hit on a number of topics.First, Scott has a jobs plan he calls the 7-7-7 plan. The nutshell is to create 700,000 jobs over seven years with a plan to map out how to do that through business incentives, deregulation, etc.Second, Scott hit hard on the Arizona immigration issue. While his initial hard stance hurt him with hispanic voters in South Florida, he ultimately narrowed McCollum’s lead there. Likewise, his stance forced McCollum to the right. McCollum, toward the end of the race, made it sound like he was the original hardliner wanting an Arizona immigration law for Florida. Originally, however, McCollum treated the Arizona law dismissively.Third, Scott outflanked McCollum with pro-life voters. Scott called for a total ban on embryonic stem cell research in the state, arguing that adult stem cells and technology had advanced enough to be able to do this without impact on medical advances.Lastly, Scott was not afraid to take a strong stance against the Ground Zero mosque. In fact, after the subpoena stunt from the McCollum campaign, the Ground Zero issue probably saved Scott’s campaign.Conservatives can learn a lesson from Scott. He was not afraid to stand up and be decisive on issues that matter to voters. He did not twiddle his thumbs, but staked out cultural and economic positions that set him apart from everyone else.He’s going to have a tough road in the general election with a lot of McCollum’s attacks coming back again. But he has the right issues. Most people are going to dismiss him and say he bought the race. In races where that typically happens, the millionaire rarely takes stands on key issues. Not Scott — he embraced policy.Don’t believe he bought it. The man overcame a long term state-wide incumbent who had the entire Florida GOP lined up behind him. That’s not a bought victory. It’s a hard fought and won victory. The experience will help him against Alex Sink.Scott now has the resources and party backing to define himself positively, over come the negatives of the primary, and win.