As Florida Democrats spent the weekend at their convention trying to rally the troops behind the re-election efforts of President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Republican bogeyman most often invoked will not run against either man, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
Instead of Republican presidential candidates like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and pizza magnate Herman Cain, or any one of the five GOP hopefuls for Nelson’s seat, the most frequent Republican name uttered by speakers was Gov. Rick Scott by a landslide.
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham noted his recent work on commissions looking into weapons of mass destruction, the financial crisis and the BP oil spill, saying he was obviously available for investigations of serious problems.
“I understand some would suggest the governor comes in that category,” Graham quipped.
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith joked that if he were to give an award to the person who has done the most to help the party over the last year, “it would be Rick Scott.”
And the party’s leaders left no doubt that the slights were intentional.
“We need to spend the next years making people understand that Rick Scott needs to be a one-term governor,” Democratic National Committee chair and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters.
But Democrats also conceded that the strategy of focusing on the unpopular Scott was also geared toward the 2012 elections. By tying whomever wins the GOP nomination to the governor, the party hopes to help preserve Florida’s trove of 29 electoral votes for Obama.
“Obviously, we’re going to say that Rick Scott is an example of the kind of leadership that we could expect from the Republican Party, and it’s not the kind of leadership that we think Florida wants or needs,” Smith said.
There might be one way to judge whether the eventual nominee fears being tied to Scott, Wasserman Schultz said.
“We’ll see if the Republican candidate for president actually wants Rick Scott to campaign with him,” she said.
Democrats will apparently try to make the anti-Scott line dovetail with Vice President Joe Biden’s pitch on Friday night — that a new breed of Republicans is more dramatically conservative and ideologically unyielding than past generations. Schultz combined the mantras to slam the GOP’s ideas on containing the nation’s growing budget deficit.
“The way they want to reduce the deficit is by saving the tax cuts for the wealthy, not asking corporations to do anything more than they have and balancing all the pain through cuts — just like Rick Scott does and the Republican Legislature here,” she said.
Whether the strategy is an effective one for helping Democrats regain the state remains to be seen. Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, said the strategy might be aimed more at the party’s base than voters in a general election.
“I think it mobilizes Democrats,” she said. “I’m not sure of the reach it has with independents and crossover Republicans. But you can just tell, if you look at T-shirts per delegate quotients, it looks like it’s an effective strategy here.”
MacManus said voters will likely have enough information to judge the presidential candidates on their own merit. But she also said that the GOP nominee will likely be wary of appearing with Scott in the same way Democrats in conservative districts might avoid Obama.
“I think the same will be true for some of the Republicans [who] will keep a bit of distance away from the governor because of his poll numbers,” she said.