Herald-Tribune: Scott's actions belie his claims about ratings
Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he doesn't care about his historically low approval ratings, but his actions tell a different story.
Scott has written letters of praise for himself and encouraging supporters to download them from his website and send to newspapers to create a fake buzz about his performance.
"While politicians usually disappoint us and rarely keep their promises, Rick is refreshing because he's keeping his word," the letters written by his campaign state.
On Monday, the letters became fodder for an episode of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, with comedian Stephen Colbert saying Scott "courageously posted this letter of praise for himself" to boost his popularity.
The letter-writing campaign is part of a bigger strategy to reverse what has been one of the worst starts for a Florida governor in the last 25 years.
Since early June, Scott has been on a media blitz.
He has toured the state touting his record, sat for radio interviews with mostly friendly hosts and recorded automated phone calls that have been sent to an undisclosed number of households celebrating his work over the past six months.
His office has also seen its first major staff shakeup, with Scott bringing on a new chief of staff, Stephen MacNamara, a capital insider who will be in charge of, among other things, communications.
Veteran Republican political consultant Jamie Miller contends that Scott's problem isn't what he has done, but more how poorly his office has promoted his work.
"He didn't do a good job of communicating what he was doing," Miller said.
In response, Scott's automated phone calls, paid for by the Republican Party of Florida, tout his efforts to force welfare recipients to take drug tests and the state's new crackdown on pill mills — in part through a prescription database Scott initially resisted.
Clearly, Scott is feeling the heat from an approval rating below 30 percent that some Republicans say has already contributed to surprise recent election losses for the GOP in municipal races in Tampa and Jacksonville.
Republicans worry that if Scott doesn't reverse his numbers, and soon, the party will suffer in statewide elections next year — and that President Barack Obama will exploit them to carry Florida in 2012 against the GOP nominee.
Despite the outward signs, Scott continues to insist in media interviews that he is not worried about his popularity, telling reporters asking about his poll numbers recently that, "I don't think about it."
A May Quinnipiac University poll showed that just 29 percent of about 1,000 people surveyed approved of Scott's job, the lowest approval rating for a Florida governor since Quinnipiac University began polling here in 2004.
Another poll, by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, of about 850 voters released Tuesday showed that if voters could have a do-over, his Democratic opponent last fall, Alex Sink, would beat Scott.
The company also tested how former Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, would do against Scott, concluding that he would beat Scott by about 20 percentage points.
"And while he would trounce Rick Scott, the reality is that so would a ham sandwich as the governor continues to become more and more unpopular," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.
Democrats insist it isn't communication but policy and performance that explain his numbers.
And the Florida Democratic Party is doing its best to boost Scott's unfavorables. They spoofed Scott by creating their own letters on their website for people to sign and send to newspapers that talk about how out-of-touch Scott is.
"With an approval rating at 29%, making him the least popular Governor in the nation, he knows letting the people of Florida speak for themselves won't bode well for him," Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith wrote in a letter to Democratic supporters.