The Democrats knew they had to do something. The news in Florida was way too good.
More than 1.6 million jobs added since December 2010
The unemployment rate down to 3.7 percent -- a drop of 7.1 percentage points since December 2010
The Consumer Sentiment Index at 98.3, up from 70.2 in December 2010
In spite of Hurricane Irma, a record 116.5 million visitors coming to Florida in 2017, an increase of 3.6 percent over 2016
An Aa1 general obligation bond rating awarded to Florida -- highest a state can achieve.
When all these things happened under a governor who made fiscal security his promise to Florida families, the same governor who is running against the highest ranking Democrat Florida's got, you need a drastic, legacy-crushing strategy to beat him.
For the last eight years, the Democrats have been saying, "Rick Scott oversaw 'the largest Medicaid fraud' in U.S. history," hoping that would destroy him. But somewhere along the way, Floridians either had enough of it or their sensibilities grew numb to the charge or they just plain trusted the governor anyway, because in spite of their best efforts, Scott won two gubernatorial elections and now leads in his effort to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Luckily for the Dems, they have a strong left arm to lean on. They have their media partners -- virtually every mainstream newspaper in Florida.
The strategy is a natural. You don't even have to ask your media friends to help. They're there for you, churning out negative Rick Scott stories, every day somebody stretching the governor out on the press -- I call it the Rick Rack -- exposing a secret dastardly deed for voters to discover. Next day a Party comms operative is there to repurpose the story for distribution to a statewide list. Day after day this goes on. It's like a Chinese torture for voters. Drip, drip, drip. What better way to show Floridians in the middle how wrong they were to trust the governor?
The Tampa Bay Times, the FDP's hip-joined twin, leads the charge.
One Tallahassee lobbyist told me on condition of anonymity, "I imagine a Times war room with a chalkboard and a list of all the subjects in the last eight years Scott might get credit for. Sometime since late spring, early summer the editors began assigning and pushing stories out on each subject on the list.
"So what you do is, every day you can, you sling a little mud and pretty soon some of it sticks."
Here's a small sample from the Times in the last four weeks:
-- 9/18/18: "A bumpy bus tour comes to a close for Rick Scott"
These don't even include the wedge of stories I call the Times' "Rick Scott Environmental Disaster Collection" -- or, how Gov. Scott singlehandedly fouled the land, lakes, springs, Everglades, ocean, gulf and beaches. As in the September stories, there's obviously an untold other side to each installment. Sadly, you won't get it from Florida's largest newspaper.
The Times isn't honest these days. I thought it was, once upon a time. As packed with great writing, great storytelling as it is today, it no longer strives to be fair and bipartisan in its news pages. Show me the page in any edition where editors admit what the Times truly is, that it has a liberal agenda and "special" friends and I'll eat my words. This newspaper was out to crucify Rick Scott since his first campaign, when he wouldn't bow down to the editorial board. Its jihad against him intensifies with every success for Florida he notches.
Don't believe me? Google "Rick Scott" & "Tampa Bay Times." Then do the same with "Bill Nelson" & "Tampa Bay Times". See what you get. Count the stories for each; compare their tenor and content. Then see how many times PolitiFact, a Times entity that developed something called "the scott-o-meter," has actually scrutinized anything out of Bill Nelson's mouth.
In spite of the Democrats' formidable strategy, I agree with RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
“The numbers don’t lie," Ingoglia says. "Conservative leadership has helped Florida prosper. Since Republicans took control of the Governor’s Mansion and Florida Cabinet in 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate has been lowered to 3.7 percent and businesses have created 1,615,500 private-sector jobs. ..."
I don't think Floridians necessarily pay a lot of attention to specific numbers. But I'm convinced they're smart enough to know that when they feel good, when they feel safe and their families, jobs and businesses are secure, the steady drip of negative Rick Scott stories won't have any lasting effect. Scott was the right man for the job at a difficult time in the state's history. He grew into the job, he made Florida a powerhouse. He is stronger, more pragmatic, more knowledgeable about the state's direction than he ever has been. Ask any of the people close to him.
Rick Scott's name is going to have the right ring to it in a voting booth.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith