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Can Florida Gov. Rick Scott become more than a punch line?

After six months as governor, Rick Scott remains a national punch line.

Which is what no politician ever wants to be. Especially the guy in charge of the nation's fourth-largest state.

As Scott passes the six-month mark, this week is as good a week as any to take stock of how he is doing.

The bottom line: There are glimmers of progress in Scott-land, but the governor remains as erratic as ever, and he's a human pinata for the national media.

Don't laugh.

Floridians can take a joke as well as anybody, but we despise being made fun of, especially on the national news.

We had our fill of that in the presidential recount of 2000 ("Flori-duh," pregnant chads, butterfly ballots, Katherine Harris, etc., etc.).

Enough already.

People in Florida just want to be taken seriously by folks in places like Peoria, Ill., and Scott's not helping.

Television comic Stephen Colbert gleefully feasted on a smorgasbord of Scott missteps Monday, most notably by mocking the canned letter to the editor Scott wants people to send to newspapers to make it look as if there's a groundswell of support for what a great job he's doing.

In two minutes, The Colbert Report turned Scott's letter-writing campaign into a public relations disaster.

Referring to Scott's abysmal poll numbers, Colbert said, "He'd probably be doing better if he wasn't trying to kill Harry Potter."

Images of the bald-headed Scott and Potter's tormentor Lord Voldemort appeared side by side on screen, as the studio audience howled with delight.

Tuesday's New York Times also cited Scott's 29 percent approval rating in a recent Quinnipiac University poll in suggesting that could help President Barack Obama in Florida next year.

Scott's spokesman, Brian Burgess, scoffed at such talk.

"People can talk about approval ratings all day long," Burgess said. "This (2012) election is all about jobs."

On Friday, the governor spoke to a statewide gathering of newspaper editors in St. Petersburg, a veritable mainstream media-fest.

Not Scott's kind of crowd, but a 29 percent job-approval rating has a way of focusing the mind.

Scott took six questions, three of them about transparency or open records, and wrapped up his comments from the Renaissance Vinoy in about 20 minutes. But he showed up, which was good. Progress.

Scott also blessed the SunRail commuter rail project for Central Florida on Friday, infuriating the fiscal conservatives and tea party types who were key to his election last year.

Writing in the conservative Sunshine State News, Kenric Ward speculated that the SunRail decision could be another Scott blunder: "Instead of gaining favor with 'moderates,' he ends up in no-man's land — alienating the right and mocked by the left."

Rep. Scott Randolph, a liberal Orlando Democrat, praised Scott's SunRail decision.

This is the same Randolph who's using Scott's unpopularity as a fundraising tool for his 2012 re-election campaign.

The good news for Scott is that next week, his new chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, will hit the ground running.

Job creation in Florida shows signs of life. The unemployment rate has declined for five straight months. And with a job-approval rating of 29 percent, Scott has nowhere to go but up.

Can Florida Gov. Rick Scott become more than a punch line? 07/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 8:34pm]
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