Rick Scott must be running for president of the United States instead of governor of Florida. The Republican's opponent seems to be President Barack Obama, not Democrat Alex Sink. Among his top issues are the federal stimulus money, national health care reform and immigration. Floridians should see through Scott's cynical, if predictable, attempt to nationalize the governor's race, and he should tell voters what he would do in Tallahassee rather than what he opposes in Washington.
A glance at the first general election campaign ads underscores the Republicans' slash and burn approach. In Sink's ad, the state's chief financial officer talks about restoring integrity to state government. In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Kendrick Meek scoots through the Everglades on an airboat to upbeat music. Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, creatively rearranges red and blue blocks spelling Republicans and Democrats until they spell Americans. Republican Marco Rubio recounts his moving family story that includes an escape from Cuba by his father, who passed away last weekend.
Scott's ad, paid for by his new best friends at the Republican Party of Florida? It attempts to scare voters with a clip of Obama complimenting Sink and noting her support of the federal stimulus money and health care reform. A photo of Crist embracing the Democratic president did help drive the governor out of the Republican primary for Senate. That's because those primary voters tend to be the most conservative and the most angry — witness Scott's primary victory. A far broader swath of voters will choose the next governor, and they want to talk about Florida issues.
By railing against federal issues, Scott taps into the tea party anger and avoids the consequences of his wrongheaded positions:
• He says as governor he would have rejected the federal stimulus money that his fellow Republicans in Tallahassee accepted. How would he have balanced a state budget in the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression without tax increases or massive layoffs?
• He vigorously opposes federal health care reform. Where is his realistic plan for creating affordable, accessible coverage for 4 million uninsured Floridians?
• He vows to bring Arizona's discriminatory immigration law to the Sunshine State. Why doesn't he recognize that Arizona's immigration issues are different than Florida's, where the number of illegal immigrants is declining?
Scott focuses on federal issues to capitalize on frustration with Washington while Sink curiously runs away from her party's accomplishments. The federal topics also are easier for Scott to demagogue. He shows little grasp of state issues such as education, growth management and tax policy. And he no longer can run against fellow Republicans and special interests who control Tallahassee. They are falling over themselves to make up with Scott after backing the Republican primary loser, Attorney General Bill McCollum. No need for Scott to spend another $50 million to buy the general election the way he did the primary when he can use someone else's money.
If Scott intends to convince mainstream voters he is fit to be governor, he should get to work on state issues. So far, he seems to be just a rich Republican who is mad at Democrats in Washington and taking it out on Florida.