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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

As Gov. Rick Scott cancels a train for Florida, he courts a national movement



Evidence is mounting that Gov. Rick Scott is interested in getting on a national tea party train and Wednesday's high speed rail announcement was just one example.

As this story explains, the governor has a case of Obama-itis: nearly every announcement is laced with anti-Obama rhetoric. Here some other reasons why Florida's first term governor may be courting a broader than Florida base:

* Scott's political consultant, Tony Fabrizio, is still working on retainer for Scott -- an unusual practice for a governor still early in his administration

* Several members of Scott's political team are still largely in place: In addition to Fabrizio, Enu Mainigi, the lawyer and long-time friend continues to operate as an unpaid advisor, frequently traveling to Tallahassee and conducting meetings in the governor's office suite; Brian Burgess, communications director for his campaign remains his communications director and is in frequent contact with Fabrizio; and Mary Anne Carter, policy director for the campaign remains a key advisor and message-shaper on the governor's staff

* Scott continues to stroke the Tea Party, whom he considers his base, and the Tea Party has been emerging quickly in Iowa -- site of the first in the nation presidential caucus on Feb. 6, 2012 -- and is expected to play an influential role by assembling its loosely-knit members. Iowa's caucus is considered more accessible to individuals not affiliated with the traditional party apparatus than primaries in other states.

* The governor appears to be comfortable antagonizing leaders of his own party; so by gaining credibility on the national stage as a Tea Party favorite, he helps himself augment his credentials with the national movement, despite any shaky support he has at home.

* The Scott folks continue to manage his message carefully. The high speed rail announcement was abruptly pulled together Wednesday morning and served to overshadow any fallout over a Herald/Times story about the governor's comments offending black legislators -- a story the Scott administration aggressively objected to. The governor clearly did not have the announcement on his radar when he met with Senate Transporation Committee Chairman Jack Latvala to talk about pending transportation issues the day before. And the governor's office gave House and Senate leaders only five minutes warning before the press conference to announce his rejection of the federal rail money.

[Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 12:38am]


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