Ruth: Scott's Keystone Kops campaign

Published March 27 2014

This may be a highly technical political science concept for the ordinary person unfamiliar with the nuances of campaigns, but it appears that Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign is being managed by doofuses.

Too subtle?

The governor's prospects for another term are somewhat problematic, given that he has the people skills of the Miami Dolphins' Richie Incognito.

But now Scott has managed to offend not only the state's Hispanic voters but one of his most important connections to the Hispanic community, Republican billionaire health care executive Mike Fernandez.

Think of this as trying to get elected mayor of Chicago by making drunk Irish jokes.

Fernandez complained to the governor's political apparatchiks that election workers on the way to a Miami-area fundraiser — in the presence of a Fernandez associate — engaged in making "culturally insensitive remarks" while mocking Mexican accents.

But instead of firing whoever made the comments or at least apologizing, the Scott camp went into denial mode. This, pardon the arcane political science jargon, is stupid.

Why would a key financial supporter falsely claim someone on the governor's campaign staff had used racial slurs, knowing full well these sorts of things eventually come into public view?

But this was only the tip of Scott's "Let's Get to Jerk" woes. Fernandez then fired off a lengthy memo accusing the candidate's campaign manager and former flack, Melissa Sellers, of engaging in insulting behavior and otherwise operating the day-to-day re-election effort driven by "paranoia."

Fernandez noted the Scott brain trust (a term used very loosely here) is composed of minions who fear disagreeing with the governor. The executive also faulted Sellers, who told him, "We need to be paranoid in the political world," for denying him access to the governor and refusing to forward his emails to Scott.

Of course, the internal Scott campaign feuding made its way into the national media. Should Scott ever get around to commenting on the dustup, it will be to blame Obamacare as the cause for his campaign mess.

Rather than attempt damage control, Curt Anderson, another Scott campaign flunky, fanned the flames by noting the governor cannot be held responsible for "every bizarre email" a supporter with little more than an "honorary title" sends, referring to Fernandez as a "renegade donor making news."

Fernandez hardly held an "honorary title" with the Scott campaign. Before stepping down in disgust as the campaign's top fundraiser, Fernandez donated $1 million of his own money to the governor's re-election bid and has helped raise an additional $35 million.

Just days ago, Fernandez hosted a $25,000-a-couple fundraiser for Scott at his Coral Gables mansion that featured Mitt Romney as the A-list guest.

At the risk of getting too deep into the weeds of campaign minutiae, let us return to Political Science 101. When someone is capable of raising eight-figure sums of campaign cash, it is not smart to write them off as a renegade dilettante.

When bad news hits a campaign, as it always does, it is malfeasance to let the story fester for days instead of getting out in front of the problem.

And no good can come from an admittedly paranoid campaign manager. Do you really want Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now running a gubernatorial race? Sellers should learn there is a fine line between paranoia and incompetence — and both feed upon the other.