SPRING HILL — Florida's commander in chief walked onto the stage to the thumping beat of a 1990s electronic pop hit.
"I've got the power!" blared the song by Snap.
When the music stopped, Gov. Rick Scott launched into an address that aimed to tell a crowd of 360 Hernando County Republicans what he has done with his power over the last three years and why he should keep it.
The governor's keynote speech at the county party's annual Reagan Day Dinner — $75 for general admission, $175 for access to a VIP reception with Scott — was a hybrid of sorts: part warmup for his re-election campaign, part rallying cry for his party.
"What you believe in — limited government, lower taxes and less regulation — works, and it works big," Scott said.
Looking relaxed even when the public address system belched deafening feedback, Scott recalled his humble beginnings and his accomplishments in the business world. He touted Florida's budget surplus, the drop in the unemployment rate and the cuts to state regulation. He took jabs at the federal government for failing to balance a budget and vowed to cut $500 million in taxes and fees in next year's budget.
"I'm working hard to make sure this is the greatest state in the country," he said.
Hernando's Republicans have much to be happy about these days. Four of five county commissioners are Republican. Rep. Rich Nugent, who recently filed to run for a third term, looks safe in his GOP-friendly district. State Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Pasco businessman whose district includes all of Hernando, didn't even draw a viable challenger in his race last year. And Blaise Ingoglia, who serves as county party chairman and vice-chairman of the state party, has a head start and the Republican machine behind him in a race against Democratic challenger Dave Welch for the state House 35 seat.
But not everybody's happy. During his speech, Scott referenced the roughly two dozen protestors who stood in front of the Palace Grand on U.S. 19 with signs bearing Scott's photo and a slogan: "Kick Rick, This Guy's Really Gotta Go."
"Eleanor Roosevelt says you never kick a dead dog, so I must be doing something right," the governor said.
Among the complaints of protesters like Richard and Ellen Frank, 60-somethings from Weeki Wachee: Scott hasn't pushed the Legislature, including House Speaker Will Weatherford, to accept federal Medicaid expansion money, which could help thousands of the county's uninsured. "How can they be so uncaring to so many people who need it?" Richard Frank said.
Weatherford spoke later. He didn't mention insurance, but he did offer what he called solutions to lifting up America's poor: improving education by offering school choice and unleashing the binds on the free market system.
"The Democrats have a great plan. It's build a bigger government," Weatherford said. "Give them more money. Create a new entitlement. We all know that doesn't work, because if it did, we wouldn't have generational poverty in this country."