Storm Clouds in the Sunshine State
Florida governor Rick Scott hits a rough patch.

Florida governor Rick Scott


Betsy Woodruff

Let’s backtrack. When Rick Scott became the governor of Florida, he was a star. It wasn’t an easy victory — in a state with a population of about 19 million, he won by around 60,000 votes, or less than half a percentage point. But he seemed committed to his tea-party guns, as it were, and invited state tea-party leaders to help him craft his first budget, which he unveiled at a rally. He was their guy.

Soon enough, however, Scott’s tea-party supporters began to question his gubernatorial hires. They point to Steve MacNamara, a former Scott chief of staff who resigned amid concerns about how he handled contracts, as an example of how Scott has made some mistakes with his executive staff and hired party insiders. Scott’s lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, abruptly resigned last month after a criminal investigation into her involvement with an Internet sweepstakes company.

Due to his troubles, conservative state legislators who have never clicked with Scott now see an opportunity to tarnish him. All in all, Scott’s relationship with Republicans is gradually unraveling. Throughout his first year in office, he largely stayed out of the way of the Republican legislature: no surprise vetoes, no grand initiatives, little to no bombast. One insider says that given the way Scott rode the Tea Party to power, the comparatively low-key atmosphere of his first year in office came as a bit of a surprise.

But that changed. Scott’s background was as a CEO, and he eventually started to run the governorship the way he’d have run a business. In contrast to Jeb Bush, who as governor was personable and warm, Scott is described as having the classic CEO style of leadership: cold, distant, and oriented to the bottom line, at least in the eyes of his critics, especially legislators. He vetoed several bills that Republicans had supported, such as one allotting funds for rape-crisis centers and a prison-reform bill that had taken years to pass.

His announcement on the Medicaid expansion came across to several high-placed state Republicans as a slight. The legislature had a select committee putting together a list of recommendations for Medicaid expansion, which is why, prior to Scott’s announcement, Florida’s congressional delegation postponed making any official pronouncements on the subject.


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