Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Politics

Steve Bousquet column: A glimpse of an unguarded Gov. Rick Scott

To catch a glimpse of Gov. Rick Scott in an unguarded moment is to see a man liberated from his straitjacket of message-driven politics.

It happened the other day in his office in the Capitol.

About the only time Scott meets at length with the Tallahassee press corps is right after a Cabinet meeting.

There's usually a bit of small talk while TV news crews are untangling microphone cords.

After nearly 2½ years in office, Scott still looks like a guy about to have his wisdom teeth removed when the media crowd into his office.

To break the ice, let's talk about the weather, Governor.

It's June in Tallahassee, and the humidity is already thicker than barbecue sauce, so Scott was asked whether he planned to get out of town this summer and do some fly fishing at his log cabin retreat in the mountains of Montana.

"No," Scott said, shaking his head. "My daughters are pregnant. I'm staying home."

This was Grandpa Scott talking, not Governor Scott.

Scott loves being a grandfather, and two more grandchildren are on the way.

He dotes on Auguste, the 18-month-old grandson he carried around the Florida State Fair in Tampa in February. And now the tyke is starting to talk.

"I want to make sure he knows how to say, 'Grandpa is a nice boy,' " Scott said. "We're getting ready for that commercial."

It was a funny, human moment — and exceedingly rare in Scott World.

Back in 2010, when Scott was a political nobody running for governor, his white-haired mother, Esther, became a fixture in Florida living rooms, telling voters in TV ads: "He's a good boy. He'll get Florida back to work."

People liked those ads, and at rallies they swarmed around Mrs. Scott. She died in November.

People who talk to Scott always say he comes across as a nice guy, but it doesn't come through to the public because he's stilted in most settings.

It's this likability factor where Scott could face his most serious challenge if his 2014 opponent is Charlie Crist. Scott doesn't like showing emotion in public. But that doesn't mean he can't show more of himself to his constituents.

The only Scott most Floridians know is the one they see on TV in 10- and 15-second bursts. As the polls keep telling us, people don't like what they're seeing. Only one in three voters said he deserves a second term in a March poll by Quinnipiac University.

Scott has to find a way to get people to like him. It's little wonder that Democrats, in an attack launched Monday, called Scott a "toxic brand."

In the heat of a Tallahassee summer, anybody in his right mind would escape to Montana for a few days if he could.

But if Scott did, he'd give his political opponents more ammunition, as he did two summers ago when he jetted to his 60-acre Montana getaway while promoting a tourism ad that encouraged people in Florida to vacation here.

On second thought, maybe Scott should stay home.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

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