Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott doesn’t need to hang James Carville’s famous sign (“the economy, stupid”) to know what’s on people’s minds this election season. Voters’ questions on the campaign trail are telling enough.
“If there are ten questions, the first ten are, ‘How are you going to help me make sure I get a job?’” Scott says.
With the most recent figures showing an uptick in state unemployment to 11.5 percent — the fifth-highest figure in the nation — Floridians are looking for a way out. Scott tells NRO he can provide just the right kind of leadership.
“What people want is somebody that they can believe in, that has done it before, that knows what it’s like,” Scott says. “You know, you look at my background, I know what it’s like to live in public housing. I know what it’s like when your family has no money to buy anything. I know what it’s like to get Christmas from the firemen.”
A businessman, entrepreneur, and health-care executive, Scott says he never considered entering politics until the threat of Obamacare arose. “Every government-run health-care system overpromises, runs out of money, and rations care. I didn’t want that to happen to Americans, so I organized a group — the website is cprights.org,” Scott says. “We did a documentary on the U.K. system, the Canadian system. Then we did ads all across the country saying, ‘This is what ought to happen.’”
The activism piqued his interest in politics. “We killed the public option, and we almost won the whole bill, but we didn’t have principled-enough politicians,” Scott says. “So at the end of that debate in March, I decided I was going to run for office.” He jumped into the gubernatorial race in April and rocketed into the lead based on a flurry of self-funded ads and solid conservative rhetoric.
Scott holds his private-sector career and rags-to-riches story up as proof of his willingness and ability to fix the economy. “I lived the American Dream,” Scott says. “The dream — what I grew up believing — is that in this country, you can do anything. You don’t have to have money, you don’t have to have connections, and you can build any business you want, take any career you want. And I’m scared to death that that dream’s not there anymore.”
The answer, Scott says, is his “7–7–7” plan to create 700,000 jobs over the next seven years through seven steps, most of which call for reducing the size and scope of the state.
“What’s ruining that dream,” Scott says, “is government regulation, government taxes, government uncertainty, government deficits, and politicians who are owned by special interests.”
That final jab — and others like it — is directed at Scott’s opponent, Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, whose campaign and associated 527 organization have received donations from groups such as U.S. Sugar and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
For his part, McCollum has hammered Scott about the $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud that was levied against Columbia/HCA, the health-care company Scott led. The McCollum camp has also pushed Scott to release information from a civil deposition he took part in six days before the announcement of his candidacy.
Should a sitting politician release information when he’s deposed? “I think it all depends on what the issue is. I think if it’s something that’s relevant to their decisionmaking process, sure,” Scott says. “But if it’s something that has nothing to do with decisionmaking, and it’s really just brought up by somebody in a campaign, that’s totally different.”