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Gingrich picks up future Senate President’s support, Romney backers say Perry departure no biggie

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Rick Perry’s departure from the GOP presidential race is almost certain to help Newt Gingrich in the Sunshine State’s upcoming primary as many of Perry’s conservative supporters – including the next Florida Senate president – defect to the former Speaker of the House.

But how much that matters depends on how well Gingrich, distrusted by many tea party activists, performs in South Carolina this weekend, Republican legislative leaders say.

Senate President-Designate Don Gaetz, a Perry backer, said he’s leaning towards Gingrich, not because the Texas governor has endorsed his former opponent, but because he, like many others, believes Gingrich would handily outshine President Obama in debates.

“I’ve respected Newt Gingrich for years,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville. Gaetz said he’s read Gingrich’s books and met with the historian on several occasions, “more than just casually.”

But, he said, “I’m happy with either Romney or Gingrich but I’m leaning toward Gingrich,” although “I can support Romney and support him with enthusiasm.”

Gingrich’s performance in South Carolina will influence how relevant Florida will be in determining the Republican candidate, some political insiders, including Gaetz, say.

The outcome of Florida’s winner-take-all-delegates primary could whittle the race down to contest between Romney and Gingrich or crown Romney as the all-but-inevitable nominee.

“It’s important for Florida to be relevant. So for parochial reasons, I hope that the contest goes on through the end of January at least because I want Florida to be important in selecting the Republican nominee,” Gaetz said. “So Gingrich would have to do well in South Carolina to keep hope alive among those who are unsatisfied with Romney.”

Perry dropping out of the race may have little impact on Florida voters, said Sen. John Thrasher, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and Mitt Romney supporter.

“I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. I think Newt’s where he is. I think Gov. Romney’s where he is. Most people still believe Gov. Romney’s the best choice, particularly in Florida. He’s got an incredible organization. He’s got a lot of troops on the ground all over the state. I think he’s got the resources to really put forth his message by Jan. 31,” Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said.

Perry made the right decision, Gaetz said.

“There comes a point when you look around and you realize that it’s hopeless. And I think that Gov. Perry has gotten to that point,” he said.

Bondi to co-host GOP presidential debate

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Bondi with Fox News correspondent John Roberts

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will co-host the GOP presidential debate on Fox News this weekend, according to a press release distributed by the Republican Party of Florida this morning.

Bondi, a Fox fave who often appeared on the news channel as a legal analyst before her election in January and a frequent guest star since, will join fellow Republican attorneys general Ken Kuccinelli of Virginia and E. Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s show Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Bondi is leading the charge in the multi-state federal health care lawsuit, launched by her predecessor Bill McCollum, now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Undoing the health care law is among the GOP presidential wannabes’ top campaign pledges.

“This forum is an excellent opportunity to engage each of the candidates in a candid conversation about issues that are important to voters in our state and across the nation,” Bondi said in the press release. “This will be a historic election, and I am excited to play a part in helping voters gain a better understanding of candidates’ beliefs on fundamental issues such as constitutionalism and the role of government.”

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum have all agreed to participate in the forum, according to the release.

Perry’s ‘oops’ moment gives Scott pause

Friday, November 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s nationally televised “oops” moment – where the GOP presidential contender could not remember one of the three government agencies he would do away with – prompted Gov. Rick Scott to be extra-careful during his first sit-down with The Palm Beach Post editorial board yesterday.

Scott told The Post this afternoon that he thought of Perry’s gaffe during some tough questioning from newspaper’s ed board.

“I had three points I was going to make and I thought, ‘Oh boy. I hope I remember the three.’ It was funny,” Scott said, smiling.

But not as funny, to the governor at least, as a temporary lapse by editorial writer Jac VerSteeg, whose name Scott could not recall.

“Then the guy sitting next to Randy (Schultz), he forgot his third point. That was funny,” Scott said.

Like Perry, each of the GOP candidates have had to contend with flubs, especially when they appear to be gaining ground in the race. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – the latest leader of the pack – is fighting off criticism over his relationship with Freddie Mac, the federally-backed (and GOP whipping post) mortgage institution. Read what Gingrich had to say about the issue yesterday in Jacksonville.

Given the degree of exposure the candidates are getting, it’s not surprising their flaws are being exposed, Scott said.

“We have eight candidates. They are able to get their message out. With all these debates, there’s a lot of focus on it. So I think it’s positive that Americans get to learn a lot more about these candidates,” Scott said.

Jobs report promising, Scott says, but plenty of work ahead

Friday, November 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott, in Jacksonville for a series of meetings, praised today’s jobs report, saying the work he and state lawmakers did earlier this year is helping to turn the state around.

The news is especially welcome as the holiday season approaches, Scott told reporters at The Jacksonville Landing overlooking the St. Johns River.

“With the holiday season starting, it’s nice to have some encouraging news. Our unemployment is continuing to drop,” Scott said.

Florida’s unemployment rate dropped slightly last month, down .3 from 10.6 percent in September to 10.3 percent and down from 12 percent in January. Palm Beach County’s jobless rate is the lowest in two years. Scott said the state has added 106,900 jobs since he took office this year.

“So it’s encouraging. It’s good it’s happening right now. We have to keep after it. We still have 900,000 people out of work but we’re headed in the right direction,” said Scott, whose pledge to bring 700,000 jobs to Florida in seven years was a cornerstone of his campaign for governor.

Floridians are more confident because the governor and legislature lowered taxes for small businesses and because Scott’s administration is more business-friendly, the governor said.

“The attitude has really changed. They know we’re going to balance their budget without raising taxes or borrowing more money. This is the first year in 20 years we didn’t borrow more money. This is the first year we paid down the debt in 20 years. We’ve been increasing the debt in this state by $1 billion a year for 20 years,” Scott said.

“I think they feel good that we’ve started the process of reducing the business tax for smaller companies. And the property tax for homeowners and for businesses. I think the other thing is the individuals I’ve appointed to these agencies…They have an attitude that they’re going to help business people solve problems if they can. If they can’t, they can’t. and they’re going to tell them quickly. Because what a business person wants, they want certainty. If you’re not going to approve something, don’t approve it. But say it up front. Don’t say it in two years or five years,” the former health care executive said.

As he often does when speaking of Florida’s job creation success, Scott mentioned his competitor-in-chief, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who apparently one-upped the Sunshine State again.

Although Florida created more jobs than Texas last month, the Lone Star State’s corporate climate was ranked top in the nation by executives. Florida ranked fourth, Scott said.

“I talked with him the other day and of course what he brings up…I told him how we beat him last month in job creation and there’s a site selector survey, did you see that, where they won that. We’re number four,” Scott said, adding that he asked his staff to find out what Florida’s ranking was last year.

As for taking credit for the state’s incremental unemployment turn-around, Scott wouldn’t bite.

“I’m always cautious about that,” he said with a grin.

Scott was supposed to have lunch with legislators from the region at the riverfront shopping plaza but the meeting was canceled, his staff said.

UPDATE: Florida on short list for Chicago Merc relo? Gov. Scott gung-ho

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group spokesman Michael Shore would not respond to specific questions about Gov. Rick Scott’s pitch to bring the CME to the Sunshine State. Scott told reporters today the CME has narrowed down its search to Florida and Texas. Duffy’s threatening to flee Illinois because lawmakers there hiked corporate income taxes earlier this year.

“We are considering proposals from several states,” Shore said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s been wooing the Chicago Mercantile Exchange since shortly after he took office. And he’s more eager than ever to get the 2,000 jobs a relocation of the CME would bring.

Scott said this morning Florida and Texas are considered the top two contenders if CME Chairman Terry Duffy follows through on his threat to move the exchange out of the state after Illinois lawmakers raised the corporate tax rate from 4.8 percent to 7 percent.

“Everybody call the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, get them to move those 2,000 jobs to Florida,” Scott told reporters during a Q-and-A session after this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

Scott believes he’s competing with his rival-in-chief – Texas Gov. Rick Perry – for the CME relo. But other news reports indicate that Duffy is also in talks with Illinois officials eager to keep the exchange at home.

Scott is “on the hunt” for new jobs, he said Tuesday, adding he’s optimistic about Florida’s chances of nailing the CME jobs. He appeared to have unleashed his inner salesman on Duffy in a recent conversation.

When asked what he told Duffy, here’s what Scott said:

“My pitch is, first off we have no personal income tax and we’re in the process of phasing out our business tax. I can tell you that if you have any issues with state regulation, I’ll at least respond. I can’t guarantee you the answer you want, but I can get you an answer. If you have problems, I’ll see if I can solve the problem. If I can’t, I can’t make any guarantees. But let me tell you. I will show up to try to solve problems. That’s all I’ve ever done in business. That’s all I’ve ever done with my life. And that’s pretty important to business people because their experience with a lot of government is they just can’t get an answer. A no is OK. But give me a darn answer.”

Scott said he’s spoken directly with Duffy and pledged to do all he could to lure the CME to the state. Two thousand new jobs would be a significant boost for Scott, who’s promised to create 700,000 jobs in seven years in Florida. About 80,000 new jobs have been added in Florida since the first-term governor took office in January.

AIF poll shows Obama in tight battle for Florida, with GOP helped by Rubio

Friday, August 19th, 2011 by John Kennedy

A new poll for the business lobby Associated Industries of Florida shows President Obama deadlocked with former Republican Mitt Romney but holding a 5 percentage point lead in the Sunshine State over newly minted contender, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The survey, by McLaughlin & Associates, was conducted Aug. 8-9, with 600 likely general election voters questioned in Florida. It has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Ryan Tyson, AIF’s vice-president of political operations, pointed out that the poll showed 44 percent of Floridians are willing to re-elect Obama. But, Tyson said, that level of support represents “a bad sign for the president.”

The poll included a narrower survey of  223 likely Republican primary voters about their preference for a nominee. Romney topped Perry by 27 percent to 16 percent, with Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachman third, with 10 percent support.

Twenty-two percent of Republican primary voters were unsure of a favorite, the poll showed. Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who is running his national campaign out of his wife’s ex-hometown, Orlando, doesn’t appear to be getting any in-state bump – drawing support from a mere 3 percent of Floridians surveyed.

Home cooking can help, though. Thirty-three percent of those responding said they were more likely to support a Republican for president, if Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was on the ticket as a vice-presidential candidate.

Scott, Hasner among ‘conservative rock stars’ headed to RedState fest

Thursday, August 11th, 2011 by George Bennett

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Senate hopeful Adam Hasner are among the “host of conservative rock stars” on the agenda for this weekend’s third annual RedState Gathering in South Carolina.

Texas Gov. and all-but-declared 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is part of the weekend lineup, as are Palmetto State conservative stars Sen. Jim DeMint and Gov. Nikki Haley. RedState’s Erick Erickson, an early Hasner backer, is the one conferring rock-star status on the event’s speakers.

The event includes a Saturday night screening of the new Sarah Palin pic The Undefeated with an appearance by filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon.

Scott won’t attend Rick Perry prayer rally – in person

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott won’t be in Houston next week for Texas Gov. Rick Perry‘s prayer event but Florida’s executive-in-chief will make an appearance – on tape.

Scott told reporters on Saturday that he’ll virtually show up for his top rival Perry, who’s considering a bid for president in an already-crowded GOP field.

“I’m not going. I’m sending a short video, just a two or three minute video,” Scott said, adding that he met with Perry within the past two weeks. “I think he thinks it’s going to be a good event so good for him.”

On Thursday, a federal judge issued a ruling giving Perry the go-ahead to participate in The Response, a day of prayer and fasting at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Saturday. A group of atheists had sued Perry, arguing that the event violated the separation of church and state, but the judge threw out the case, ruling that the group had no standing.

Perry invited other Republican governors, including Scott, to join him in the prayer day but thus far appears to be going solo.

Scott frequently looks to Lone Star state policies as a guide for what Florida should be doing to limit business regulation and encourage job growth. Recently, Scott put his rival on notice after Chief Executive magazine ranked Texas first and Florida third in the nation for doing business.

Scott stopped short of endorsing Perry for president but elaborated on who he thinks will win not only the GOP primary but the general election. His description outlines a candidate who sounds a lot Florida’s self-proclaimed jobs governor, who campaigned on a pledge of bringing 700,000 jobs to the Sunshine State and whose middle name could be construed “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
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Scott and Perry put pie and sauce on the line

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by John Kennedy

With the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks about to battle for the NBA title, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry put their own state’s products, and bragging rights, on the line Tuesday.

Scott put up a key lime pie against Perry’s case of Texas barbecue sauce on the outcome of the best-of-seven-games series. Scott may have already tried to get inside Perry’s head by warning earlier this month that he wanted to top Texas’ best-in-the-nation for business title.

Perry, meanwhile, is talking about running for president. Scott is still dissecting last week’s Quinnipiac University poll and his cratering popularity level.

Scott puts TX guv Perry on notice

Thursday, May 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

No. 1

Being No. 3 isn’t good enough for Gov. Rick Scott. He wants to be the top dog.

No. 3

Chief Executive magazine recently ranked Florida the third best in the nation for doing business, behind second-place winner North Carolina and top-ranked Texas. The survey of CEOs has placed the Lone Star state above all others for the seventh year in a row, prompting a challenge from Scott to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Scott frequently tips his hat to Perry and looks to reforms in his state as models for what Florida should do.

Scott today wrote Perry a letter telling him to watch his back.

“Not only have you achieved this top ranking this year, you have achieved it seven years in a row. Like everything else Texas does, you have done it in a BIG way,” Scott wrote. “However, I must tell you: Seven years is long enough.”

Scott neglects to mention that among the big things Texas has is a budget deficit of as much as $27 billion – more than seven times greater than the $3.6 billion spending gap Florida lawmakers struggled to close this year. The Texas legislature is facing a potential special session to deal with their budget mess.

Back in the Sunshine State, however, Florida is “eliminating job killing regulation, reducing the size and cost of government, and making sure we have the best educated workforce,” Scott boasts.

“We have no personal income tax and are phasing out the business tax, starting with eliminating it entirely for half the business that paid it. Florida is definitely on the road to be number one. Thank you for giving us the motivation we needed.”

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