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Will Weatherford's Medicaid snub may benefit Gov. Rick Scott

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, while stiffing Florida Gov. Rick Scott on his call to expand Medicaid coverage in Florida, may be doing the governor a big favor. Now the governor heading into a tough re-election campaign gets to have it both ways.

To the voters mystified over how state leaders could decline to accept billions of dollars in federal funding to provide coverage to nearly one million Floridians, Scott can say he's on their side. To the voters livid that the one-time tea party governor thundering against Obamacare could suddenly embrace it, Scott's Medicaid about-face could soon be forgotten since Florida House leaders are against the idea.

No wonder, Scott barely mentioned Medicaid in his State of the State address last week and, when questioned by reporters, sounded like fighting for expanded Medicaid was at the bottom of his priority list.

The apparent demise of Medicaid expansion in Florida underscores another truth about the political landscape in Florida today: Jeb Bush, out of office six years, still wields more influence over state policy than the sitting governor.

Bush and his surrogates all but picked Florida's new education commissioner, Tony Bennett. And almost as soon as the former governor warned Republicans about agreeing to expand Medicaid coverage in Florida, it looked dead on arrival in the Florida House.

Bush does circuit

No mere mortal is Gov. Bush. Today, the co-author of the new book Immigration Wars is scheduled to appear on This Week on ABC, Face the Nation on CBS, Meet the Press on NBC, State of the Union on CNN and Fox News Sunday.

This is what's known as pulling a "full Ginsburg" in honor of Monica Lewinsky lawyer William Ginsburg, who first achieved the feat of appearing on every Sunday interview show in February 1998.

Battleground race

Democrats don't have a strong candidate yet to take on Gov. Scott in 2014, but that's not holding back the Democratic optimism one hears from Washington to Tallahassee about taking control of Florida's Governor's Mansion.

The national implications of the race are enormous, given Florida's status as the ultimate battleground state and the widely held view that holding the governor's office can add a couple percentage points onto that party's presidential nominee.

In fact, the Rothenberg Political Report notes that Florida is one of several key battleground states with vulnerable Republican governors up for re-election in 2014. Also facing potentially tough races are Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

"Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan — along with Virginia this year and Maine in 2014 — constitute Democrats' top opportunities in the 38 gubernatorial races up between now and next November," Rothenberg noted. "Winning a number of the big states would further shake Republican confidence and swing the nation's political pendulum further toward the Democrats. And that's reason enough to watch the big four gubernatorial contests."

Early look at 2016

Quinnipiac University released a Feb. 27-March 4 national 2016 presidential poll last week (margin of error plus or minus 2.2 percent), measuring the strength of Democrats Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo against Republicans Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan.

The upshot is that Clinton would beat all three Republicans if the election were held today, but Christie looks like the strongest Republican. He tops both Biden and Cuomo.

Florida's junior senator doesn't look especially strong in the poll. Rubio would lose to Clinton 50 percent to 34 percent and to Vice President Biden, 45 percent to 38 percent. He ties New York Gov. Cuomo, with 37 percent support each.

Endorsing Scott

Conservative RedState editor Erick Erickson apparently noticed the tea party disenchantment over Gov. Scott's embrace of Medicaid expansion in Florida because Erickson endorsed Scott for re-election Friday. And that would be unnecessary, except for speculation about a primary challenge for Scott.

From Erickson's post: "Gov. Scott did things Charlie Crist would never do. He signed legislation to prohibit state money paying for abortions, legislation to protect concealed carry permit holders, and legislation to cut property taxes. He also set about reforming Florida's pension program and started a fight with the ACLU over drug testing welfare recipients.

"His governance of Florida is solid. He's made a mistake on one issue. But I'm proud to support Rick Scott and his re-election effort."

Ross on TV today

Check out U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Jack Latvala. On the very first day of the legislative session, the Republican from Clearwater saw his sweeping elections and ethics reform bill unanimously pass the Florida Senate with only a few technical changes. An impressive feat that underscores Latvala's experience and skill.

Losers of the week

Marco Rubio. Sorry Marco, but with Jeb Bush pushing the door wide open on a presidential bid, he signalled an army of top GOP fundraisers — and prospective Rubio supporters — to keep their powder dry until Bush decides. Al Cardenas. The former Florida GOP chairman now leading the American Conservative Union has Republicans of all stripes shaking their heads over his choice of speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference later this week. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps the most popular Republican in America? Not invited. On this list? Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and America's most prominent birther, Donald Trump. Doesn't look like the future of the GOP.

Will Weatherford's Medicaid snub may benefit Gov. Rick Scott 03/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:37pm]

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