A bumpy bus tour comes to a close for Rick Scott

Protesters, hecklers and schedule changes mark the governor's 10-day motor tour of the state.
Gov. Rick Scott's bus tour stopped in Clearwater [Scott for Florida]
Gov. Rick Scott's bus tour stopped in Clearwater [Scott for Florida]
Published Sept. 18, 2018|Updated Sept. 19, 2018

Rick Scott's "Make Washington Work Bus Tour" came to an end Tuesday in Orlando. It was a bumpy ride — not the smooth and carefully scripted event that Floridians have come to expect from the always-on-message governor.

Could the 10-day bus tour be a metaphor for Scott's U.S. Senate campaign?

As always, Scott took pains to control his message, but he's not accustomed to being met by hecklers and protesters at campaign events. This is a very different moment in Florida politics.

About 15 people protesting Scott's environmental policies met him Tuesday afternoon in Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel reports. "You have the right to exercise your voice (and) I respect everybody's right to what they think," Scott told them.

Scott, a Naples resident, cancelled a bus tour event Tuesday morning at a local lumber store. The Collier County GOP chairman, Ron Kezeske, told local Republicans Monday night in an email that Scott was cancelling an event, without exactly saying why, other than it was due to "unforeseen circumstances."

Chris Hartline, a Scott campaign spokesman, said: "Gov. Scott travels across the state every day and has campaigned in all 67 counties — his schedule is updated regularly and the event you are referring to was not finalized, publicized or noticed."

Hartline said Scott spent the morning meeting with supporters and elected officials in Naples and Fort Myers. Those events were not publicized to area media outlets in advance.

Yudy Barbera, chairwoman of the Collier County Democrats, did not say a protest was planned at the lumber store, but said: "If we know where he's going to be, we'll be there. This is his backyard, and he still doesn't care how his policies are affecting our county."

On Monday, Scott was surrounded by chanting protesters at a stop in strongly-Republican Venice.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Scott attempted to leave an event through a back door, but the protesters were there, irate over the spread of red tide algae in southwest Florida's waterways.

Politico reported that Scott flew in his sleek jet to one of his bus tour events. The campaign said he had no alternative because of a previously-scheduled day of clemency hearings, but the optics clashed with the idea of a grass roots caravan to meet the people.

Last Sunday, Scott scratched a scheduled visit to The Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach, near Destin, where a dozen protesters waited to give him an earful about the beach access bill Scott signed into law this year.

Then it was off to  Captain Anderson's seafood restaurant in Panama City, where Scott was met by CFO Jimmy Patronis and a gang of photogenic kids from Patronis Elementary School. But on a relaxing Sunday afternoon, Scott refused to take reporters' questions at his own campaign event, something rarely seen from a candidate on the stump.

The bus tour had its high points.

They included two fund-raisers with former President George W. Bush; an endorsement from former Gov. Jeb Bush; a visit from football coach Lou Holtz; a rally at Gus Machado Ford in Hialeah; a bus ride with the Diaz-Balart brothers (U.S. Rep. Mario and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln); a show of support from bikers in Coral Springs, and take-out food from Sonny's.