Friday, January 31, 2014

A Rick and a Hard Place

As a new Q-poll shows Charlie Crist up on Rick Scott by 8 points, and also shows that 54 percent of Floridians believe Scott does not deserve another term, it’s a good time to reflect on a conundrum Scott finds himself in which will make him wish medical marijuana was the worst thing he had to worry about affecting his vote count.

On the one hand, Scott wants to emphasize his (alleged) record for jobs and lowering the unemployment rate. But we may recall that during the 2012 election, there was a lot of talk about how Scott’s message of success was at odds with Mitt Romney’s message that things weren’t going so hot. 

In the same way, Scott has a difficult time explaining why some or all of what success there is in Florida doesn’t go to the Obama administration. (For my part, as I say in my list, I don’t think politicians really do that much to affect things like jobs and the economy, comparatively speaking. But that’s not a message that will go well in Scott’s campaign quiver.)

On the other hand, Scott desperately wants to be able to blame Charlie Crist for Florida’s prior woes. That’s an absurdity on the face of it; as I also notice in the list, you can’t blame a state governor for what amounted to an international crisis. And yesterday Scott said something so dumb that it made #161 on my list (#147 in the numbering setup):

147) Rick Scott has criticized Charlie Crist for “raiding” a budget fund by using it for its intended purpose – to make up for budget shortfalls.

Scott referred to his 2014 budget, saying it “pays back money the previous administration raided from the Budget Stabilization fund.” This is bizarre for two reasons. The first is that the “previous administration” included a Republican legislature that approved of this “raid” and is also substantially the same Legislature that now serves under Scott. The second is that the fund in question, the Budget Stabilization Fund, was instituted precisely for the purpose (among others) of being drawn from when there were budget shortfalls. What Scott calls a “raid” was in reality an entirely appropriate action.

If you look at the Florida statute that covers this, one of the chief purposes is stated as, “Offsetting a deficit in the General Revenue Fund.” By law, Crist (and the Legislature) were supposed to “raid” the Budget Stabilization Fund in precisely the circumstances that emerged during Crist’s term. But Rick Scott wants to paint this as Crist engaging in piracy and endangering Florida. Obviously, nothing is further from the truth.

Which leads back to the other hand: Scott wants to blame Crist for prior woes, but when he does, he’s also pointing a finger at the same overall legislative body that now serves with him. It’s like the joke about pointing with one finger while three more point back at you. Scott can’t blame Crist for anything without making dozens of members of his own party just as culpable.

Trapped between these two blades, Scott will find himself in enormous trouble with any voters who realize this. And he’s got no way to explain himself out of it.

When we saw him on the news last night, we thought he looked pretty angry when he was bashing Crist. It’s not hard to see why. Wouldn’t it be splendid if Rick Scott had a meltdown right there during a press conference and started shouting at reporters, while his entire head turned beet red?

It could happen.

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