Friday, May 25, 2018
Business

Will Gov. Rick Scott ride Florida's lower jobless rate to re-election?

It's simple why I'm supporting Rick Scott. He campaigned on a platform of getting Florida's economy back on track and has delivered on that promise.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Nov. 12.

Can it be that simple?

Will Florida Gov. Rick Scott win re-election next November just by spending tens of millions of dollars reminding Floridians that the state unemployment rate was sky high when he took office and now it is not?

When Scott first took office as governor in early 2011, Florida's jobless rate was just under 12 percent, while Tampa Bay's had climbed to 12.4 percent. Those same rates had both dropped to 7 percent in August 2013 — the latest numbers available. They are also lower than the national rate.

Among campaign strategies, that 5-plus-percentage-point decline in unemployment amounts to a slam dunk for Republican Scott.

Freshly constructed Democrat Charlie Crist, Scott's likely opponent, has his work cut out for him.

Rick Scott, a two-termer?

Do not underestimate him. Again.

Yes, this is the same guy denounced during his first campaign for escaping government fraud charges brought against Columbia/HCA, the hospital chain that was fined $1.7 billion that he once ran. Yes, this is the same guy who walked away with hundreds of millions in HCA stock — money that would help fund his high-priced, successful run for governor in 2010. Yes, this is also the same guy lampooned in office for his likeness to Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter's evil nemesis.

If it did not matter enough then, it sure won't matter now. Voters hungry for employment will rally behind an incumbent telling Floridians for years that "jobs, jobs, jobs" is his priority in office.

Let's get real for a moment.

Governors can only influence broad economic trends at best. On his first day as governor back in 2011, Scott could have stuck his head in the sand and Florida's unemployment rate still would have dropped dramatically.

But Scott does deserve some credit.

He lowered taxes and promoted Florida to businesses elsewhere as a good place for relocation or expansion. He sent letters to the leaders of companies in selected states urging them to move to Florida. One company, car rental giant Hertz, brought its headquarters to Estero in southwest Florida.

All that effort may have dropped Florida's jobless rate just a bit more than it would have declined anyway. But many Floridians also gave up and stopped looking for work. And many of the new jobs created in Florida since Scott took office are in industries like tourism that pay less than the jobs that went away.

No matter.

The barrage of political advertising coming our way praising Scott's single-handed success in saving Florida's job market will be stunning.

Charlie Crist better have a darn good response.

Because these days, a message of more jobs trumps all.

Just ask Jeb.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

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