Gov. Scott's speech his ‘most personal,’ but some sense political motivations

From the birth of a grandson to the death of his mother to recollections of a Christmas without presents and an apartment with camping equipment for furniture, Gov. Rick Scott loaded Tuesday’s annual State of the State address with personal details and anecdotes.

Scott’s campaign-style speech used the slogan “Let’s keep working” eight times and urged lawmakers to make Florida into the “land of 700,000 new jobs” — themes unsurprising to anyone who has followed Scott’s jobs-focused political career.

But Scott also tried to put a human face on what even he acknowledged can be robotic message discipline.

“I know that reporters get tired of me constantly talking about jobs when they want to ask other questions. I know that some people in the room think I’m too singularly focused on Florida’s economy. Well, all I can tell you is that we’re all a product of our own experiences in life,” Scott said.

“I’ve seen what happens to families who struggle for a job. I’ve had Christmas without presents. I don’t want any of our people to ever feel stuck in those situations,” Scott said, drawing more than half a minute of applause.

“I didn’t start caring about jobs when I ran a company. I started caring about jobs when I saw my father lose his,” Scott continued.

Scott is a multimillionaire businessman who spent more than $70 million of his own money on his 2010 race and has been depicted by Democrats as a heartless corporate raider. Scott in the past has mentioned his childhood in public housing and his start in business running a doughnut shop — stories he recounted again in the state of the state address.

But Republican consultant Brian Hughes said Tuesday’s speech stood out.

“The governor’s speech clearly was the most personal I’ve ever heard him give and it’s good to see because his story is compelling,” said Hughes, who supports Scott but is not connected to his campaign. “You can run through all the data — unemployment down, all the various debt reductions, all the various things that we do as data points — but it doesn’t connect with people the way a personal narrative does.”

Scott faces a tough 2014 re-election fight, trailing in most polls against likely Democratic nominee Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor known for his retail politicking skills and ability to connect on a personal level with voters.

Crist led Scott by 8 points in a January poll by Quinnipiac University. The poll found only 38 percent of Florida voters had a favorable opinion of Scott, while 45 percent viewed him unfavorably. Crist was viewed favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 37 percent. A University of Florida poll last month gave Crist a 14-point edge over Scott in understanding “problems of people like me.”

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a former Democratic Senator who attended Tuesday’s speech, said he sensed political considerations in Scott’s decision to emphasize his personal history.

“I think he’s telling a personal narrative, which he didn’t really do during his first campaign,” Aronberg said. “You have to believe his advisers told him to emphasize his bio because of the likeability gap in the polls.”

Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers accompanied Scott on Monday when he went to the House chamber to rehearse his speech, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A Scott campaign spokesman didn’t elaborate Tuesday on what role campaign personnel had in preparing the speech.

Former House Republican leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton, who attended Tuesday’s speech, said Scott should continue emphasizing his personal history in the campaign.

“He needs to tell that story,” Hasner said. “When he told the story of how he got to where he is, that connects with working Floridians and it shows that he cares about creating jobs and making Florida the best place to live, work and enjoy.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

FBI investigated Jeff Sessions for possible perjury: reports
FBI investigated Jeff Sessions for possible perjury: reports

The FBI investigated U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for possible perjury last year amid allegations that he misled lawmakers about his contacts with Russians ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports. The investigation into Sessions started before the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with...
Users abandon Facebook after Cambridge Analytica findings
Users abandon Facebook after Cambridge Analytica findings

Debates over privacy have plagued Facebook for years.  But the news that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was able to gain access to private data through the social network has sparked an unusually strong reaction among its users.  The hashtag #DeleteFacebook appeared...
How a witness for Mueller and a Republican donor influenced the White House for Gulf rulers
How a witness for Mueller and a Republican donor influenced the White House for Gulf rulers

A cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation worked for more than a year to turn a top Trump fundraiser into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to interviews and previously undisclosed documents.  Hundreds of pages of correspondence between the two...
Ex-chief of CIA suggests Putin may have compromising information on Trump
Ex-chief of CIA suggests Putin may have compromising information on Trump

John O. Brennan, the former director of the CIA, said Wednesday that he thought Russia may have some kind of compromising information on President Donald Trump, setting off furious speculation about whether the former spy chief was basing that assertion on inside information.  In an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,&rdquo...
CBS says it will air ‘60 Minutes’ interview with porn star Stormy Daniels this weekend
CBS says it will air ‘60 Minutes’ interview with porn star Stormy Daniels this weekend

Stormy Daniels will appear on national television for a full-length interview for the first time since sordid scandal involving her and President Donald Trump burst into public view.  The interview, with host Anderson Cooper, was taped earlier this month. Speculation has swirled that Trump's lawyers might seek an injunction to prevent its broadcast...
More Stories