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Nancy Smith

It Really IS All About Jobs

May 20, 2014 - 6:00pm

Florida Gov. Rick Scott takes plenty of ridicule -- you might even say a fair amount of disdain -- for his "laser-focus" on jobs and the economy. But like it or not, he's on the same page as millions of Americans who cite joblessness as the A-No. 1, top problem in the nation.

Gallup's just-released monthly poll for May not only shows Americans regard unemployment as the biggest national problem, but the percentage of people who gave unemployment as their answer grew from 14 percent in April to 20 percent in May.

Concern is increasing, not abating, and it's doubtful Floridians put any less priority on jobs than the nation as a whole.

In case you're wondering, running a close second to unemployment as the largest problem in America was dissatisfaction with government including "poor leadership, corruption or abuse of power" at 20 percent in April and 19 percent in May.

But the third most cited problem in Gallup's May poll was another of Rick Scott's drumbeats -- the state of the economy in general, at 17 percent, as opposed to 16 percent in April.

A couple of interesting facts:

The environment gets scant mention as the most important problem to Americans. In fact, in the poll's list of 13 possible issues of importance to Americans, the environment comes in 12th.Oh, it rose from an average of 1 percent over the past six months to 3 percent in May -- which Gallup attributes to "recent news coverage highlighting the negative effects of global warming and climate change on the environment."

I believe if the poll had separated out respondents by state, the environment would have received a more respectable rating among Floridians, whose quality of life is largely dependent on the state's natural resources, and who live in the shadow of the Everglades, designated by the United Nations as one of only three wetland areas of global importance.

I mention the low national rating because I think it indicates where the Everglades is likely to be in Washington's appropriations pecking order. This is an election year, we hear a lot of promises, but after November, watch the hand go up the sleeve for the ailing River of Grass. You think policymakers don't pay attention to polls like Gallup's?

Another interesting item in the survey is its reflection of party differences when it comes to the top answers.

Gallup's survey shows Democrats most likely to name jobs or unemployment as the country's most important problem, whereas Republicans' top response is the economy. Democrats, Republicans, and independents are about equally likely to cite dissatisfaction with government. Results show the federal budget deficit is a much larger concern among Republicans (16 percent) than among independents (7 percent) and Democrats (3 percent).

(To view survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends, click on the attachment at the end of this commentary.)

It seems to me the governor's tunnel vision, his goal of creating an "opportunity economy" for Florida, has been right all along.

Yes, Scott promised 700,000 jobs in seven years, but no matter how you credit the state's 440,000-plus net, new private-sector jobs since he began implementing pro-growth policies, they happened on his watch, while he was out hustling for new companies and while he was budgeting significant money as bait to bring them here.

Most recent competitive economic multiple-year projects won by the Scott administration include the Hertz Corp., 700 jobs, $68.75 million in capital investment; Northrop Grumman, 1,000 jobs; Navy Federal Credit Union, 1,500 jobs, $200 million in capital investment; Verizon, 750 jobs, $50 million in capital investment; and Boeing, 550 jobs, $163 million in capital investment.

Says Scott, "It's important to know that these expected jobs are not created overnight. In fact, they are all multiple-year projects that will invest millions into Florida communities and create direct and indirect jobs for years to come."

If you don't want to buy it all, then don't. But what is unmistakable is that Rick Scott's priorities are the priorities of ordinary Americans. This, in the end, will be the problem the Democratic candidate for governor must overcome.

Democrats shouldn't kid themselves. Even with the support of the Tampa Bay Times' PolitiFact, no matter how well their candidate works a crowd, they're unlikely to get away with putting lipstick on Charlie Crist's four-year unemployment pig.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, head of the Republican Governors Association, said it best:"Charlie Crist was a failure as governor and is a pure political opportunist who is out for himself. Under Crist, Florida lost over 800,000 jobs, saw their unemployment rate surge from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent, and experienced a budgetary crisis that left the state sinking faster and faster. ... If you like losing jobs ... Charlie Crist is your guy."

Scott has taken -- and continues to field -- criticism for investment in job creation. Too much criticism. You can argue each project that received money needed a more careful review, but you can't argue with the positive new culture for business Scott's policies -- all of them, including that one -- have created.

Before Scott took office, Florida was considered for only about one of 20 competitive projects. Today, the Sunshine State competes for about one of four economic projects. That didn't happen by accident.

The Gallup poll is simply a reminder that Florida is moving in a direction millions of Americans envy. The numbers are on Scott's side.

They should give the Florida Democratic Party something to think about.

Gallup's survey results, incidentally, are based on telephone interviews conducted May 8-11, 2014, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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