TAMPA — Mitt Romney needs to win Florida, and to do that, it's obvious he does not need Gov. Rick Scott at his side.
At rallies in Tampa and Coral Gables on Wednesday, the governor who stood at Romney's side was not Scott but Jeb Bush, a Republican icon who left office nearly six years ago.
Romney praised Bush as "the education governor that all of us looked at with great admiration."
He didn't mention Scott.
In Tampa, Romney shared the stage with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, the GOP's Senate candidate. All three Republican Cabinet members were on hand and introduced personally by Romney.
Scott, meanwhile, was hundreds of miles away, visiting a Panhandle aerospace center to promote jobs for veterans.
"As governor, you do have a job to do," Scott said recently, noting that he was with Romney at a recent Palm Beach fundraiser and attended the final presidential debate in Boca Raton on Oct. 22.
The fundraiser was private, however, and Scott's attendance at the debate was expected, since he's the host state's governor.
In fact, Scott has shared a stage with Romney only once since Romney won the Florida presidential primary Jan. 31. Scott helped introduce Romney at an Aug. 13 event in St. Augustine.
But when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan rallied 10,000 people on Oct. 19 at a band shell in Daytona Beach, Scott was in nearby St. Augustine at a retirement party for a Florida National Guard official.
Brett Doster, a Tallahassee political strategist and a senior Romney adviser in Florida, said Scott has raised money for Romney and that his "team" talks to the campaign regularly. "But it is to be expected that the governor of a state in economic crisis would be engaged seriously in governing," Doster said.
That expectation apparently isn't the same elsewhere.
In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich has campaigned regularly with or for Romney, and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada is now appearing in a television ad for Romney.
In Florida, Scott is appearing in a new ad that attacks Romney.
A pro-President Barack Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, released an ad Wednesday linking Romney and Scott to each other and to Medicare, citing Scott's past ties to a hospital chain that paid a record fine for Medicare fraud and saying Romney would "end Medicare as we know it."
Add it all up, and Scott's absence makes political sense.
"Romney needs to win Florida," said Darryl Paulson, a Florida political scientist and a Republican. "I think it is prudent to stay arm's length from anyone in the party who might alienate the few undecided voters who are left."
Times staff writer Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected]