Governor Rick Scott is pledging to spend $100 million on his 2014 re-election campaign.
That would make it one of the most expensive gubernatorial campaigns in Florida history. But even with that astronomical amount of campaign dollars, the race figures to be a close one – possibly against former governor and now Democrat Charlie Crist.
A glimpse at a Bay News 9/Tampa Bay Times/AM 820 News Tampa Bay exclusive poll may give a small window at why just 23 percent of those poll said Scott is doing a good or excellent job as governor. Forty-four percent rated Scott’s performance as governor not so good or poor.
It has been three years since Scott, a little-known former health care executive, became Florida’s 45th governor. He was a Tea Party favorite, pledging to cut taxes and shrink Florida’s government, and his biggest goal was to create jobs: a pledged 700,000 in seven years.
Now, three years later, Scott has a record, and that record is getting mixed reviews from likely voters.
The poll asked Hillsborough and Pinellas voters how they would rate the governor’s overall job performance.
Only five percent say the governor has done an excellent job. Eighteen percent of those polled said he has done a good job and 28 percent said Scott has been an average governor.
And, underscoring his challenge in 2014, 13 percent think Scott’s job performance is not so good and 31 percent call it poor.
The message could be that in a part of the state that could make or break the governor’s hopes of winning re-election, only a quarter of likely voters are giving him high marks.
The poll numbers weren’t much better among a key demographic: Voters age 55 and over. More than a third (37 percent) of the 55-and over Hillsborough and Pinellas voters polled said Scott is doing a poor job.
The popularity problem is nothing new for Governor Scott as he has grappled with it during his entire time in office.
However, the governor’s team and some political analysts are predicting a turnaround.
“Rick Scott has hardly spent a dime in his campaign for re-election, and when he unleashes all that money, these numbers of his are going to increase,” said Bay News 9 Republican Political Analyst Chris Ingram. “And Charlie Crist, his likely Democratic opponent in the general election, his numbers are definitely going to go down.”
A turnaround could be tied to jobs.
As the state unemployment rate goes down, the theory goes, the stock of the “jobs governor” should go up. The unemployment rate has fallen by more than 4.5 points since Scott took office. But if the poll is any indication, jobs may not be the only major issue in the 2014 campaign.
From killing high-speed rail to cutting education funding and launching a controversial voter purge, Scott has made several decision critics have deemed contentious.
But Scott backers point to job creation (the third most of any state in the country in 2013), teacher raises, a repealed sales tax on manufacturing equipment and companies moving operations to the state, including rental-car giant Hertz.
So when likely opponent Crist focuses on the governor’s missteps, Scott counters by looking at votes in November – not poll numbers in January.
“I don’t know what it’ll cost,” Scott says of the financial warchest for his re-election bid. “But we’ll have the money to win.”
The margin of error on the poll is +/- 3.9 percent.