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Florida Gov. Rick Scott: No way I'm not running for re-election

Imagine you're Gov. Rick Scott. After spending $73 million of your own money to win office, you face protesters constantly, you have little privacy and you are America's most unpopular governor.

Maybe you'd think of calling it quits after one term?

No way.

There is zero chance he won't run for a second term, Gov. Scott said in an exclusive Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9.

"Unless my wife tells me she's dumping me, I'm running for a second term," Scott said, chuckling and recounting how much he is enjoying the job.

"I love people," he said repeatedly. "Some people get energized around people and ideas, policies and stuff like that. I love that stuff."

The wide-ranging conversation for Political Connections was a rarity, as Scott has seldom agreed to anything but brief interviews. Airing at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., the interview covers everything from shaking up his administration to SunRail to presidential politics.

"Governors make good presidents historically because they've had to make tough choices," said Scott, who is in no rush to endorse anyone for 2012.

Scott said his low poll numbers don't bother him, and he could point to nothing that he would have done differently.

"Everything I've done, I ran on," he said. "This is the platform that they elected me to do."

If a vote today …

Scott is lucky he's not facing re-election any time soon. A poll released last week by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that Democrat Alex Sink today would beat Scott 57 percent to 35 percent.

And if Charlie Crist ran as a Democrat, he would beat Scott 56 percent to 34 percent. A plurality of voters in the state — 43 percent — think it's time for Crist to switch to the Democratic Party compared to 26 percent who think he should not and 31 percent who don't have an opinion.

Nelson's numbers

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson does face re-election in 2012, and Public Policy Polling found he's not exactly basking in love. Only 38 percent of voters approve of the job he is doing, including a paltry 53 percent of Democrats. Despite that, he handily leads his major Republican rivals.

"Democrats may not be in love with Nelson — but they're still pretty strongly committed to voting for him — and that combined with a persistent lead with independents gives him a double-digit advantage over his potential Republican foes," pollster Tom Jensen noted. "He's up 11 points on George LeMieux at 46-35 and has identical 12-point leads over Mike Haridopolos and Adam Hasner at 47-35."

Putnam defers run

It's hard to imagine Scott's poll numbers not improving by re-election time in 2014, but they are so low today that Republicans have been quietly speculating about a primary challenge.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, widely viewed as a future gubernatorial candidate, told reporters it's not on his radar for 2014: "No, I'm not giving consideration to running for governor."

Gaetz crowning is set

State Sen. Don Gaetz's ascension to the Senate presidency came one step closer last week when Senate President Haridopolos announced that the Nice­ville Republican will be officially designated to the post for the 2013-2014 term during ceremonies on Sept. 19.

"Sen. Gaetz is supported by an overwhelming majority of his colleagues in the Republican caucus," Haridopolos said, adding he "is more than ready for the responsibilities of leading our chamber and our state."

Conservatives gather

The American Conservative Union will host a regional Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Sept. 23 in conjunction with the state GOP's Presidency 5 weekend Sept. 22-24, also in Orlando.

"As we battle the agenda of President (Barack) Obama and the most liberal administration in the history of our country, ACU is heading to the front lines and taking the conservative fight directly to the states," said organization chairman Al Cardenas, a former Florida GOP chairman.

Open Senate seat

Democratic state Sen. Tony Hill is resigning to take a job with new Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. A special election will be called to fill Hill's seat, which he would have left in 2012 due to term limits. Hill will serve as a special assistant and liaison.

Brown also hired Times-Union political columnist Abel Harding as communications director and state Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, as special assistant. Jones said in a statement that "the appointment does not conflict with my legislative duties."

Times staff writers Alex Leary and Janet Zink contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

U.S. Rep. John Mica,

R-Winter Park. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee for years has been pushing for the expensive Orlando-area SunRail project. Despite widespread criticism that it's a boondoggle, Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the commuter rail Friday.

Loser of the week

Florida tea partiers.

That tea party governor

you counted on to stand

firm on his principles and fiscal conservatism? Sorry guys, but Mr. Outsider looks a lot more like a typical politician after approving the SunRail project that many tea party activists denounced.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott: No way I'm not running for re-election 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 10:00pm]
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