Scott: Florida straw poll will pick next pres­i­dent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID ELDRIDGE

Florida, the site of the Sept. 12 GOP de­bate and host of an­other show­down next week, is squarely in the 2012 cam­paign spot­light — and with good rea­son, ac­cord­ing to first­term Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott.

The Sun­shine State, Mr. Scott said in an in­ter­view Sept. 14, is about to pick the coun­try’s next pres­i­dent.

“I per­son­ally be­lieve that who­ever wins that straw poll is go­ing to win the pres­i­dency.”

The gov­er­nor, ap­pear­ing on The Washington Times-af­fil­i­ated “Amer­ica’s Morn­ing News” ra­dio pro­gram, was re­fer­ring to the Sept. 24 Florida straw poll that wraps up three days of Repub­li­can speeches, can­di­date ap­pear­ances and po­lit­i­cal strat­egy ses­sions in Or­lando.

The gath­er­ing, which the state GOP has dubbed “Pres­i­dency 5,” is ex­pected to draw more than 3,000 party ac­tivists and in­cludes the Fox News-spon­sored pres­i­den­tial de­bate Sept. 22. The Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence is hold­ing its Florida meet­ing in Or­lando at the same time.

Mr. Scott said Florida Repub­li­cans and tea party ac­tivists, who backed his cam­paign for the gov­er­nor­ship in 2010, are “en­gaged.”

“They know that Florida is the key to win­ning the pres­i­dent,” he said.

Mr. Scott’s as­sess­ment of the im­pact of the Florida straw poll could be in­ter­preted as a slap at some of the GOP can­di­dates, in­clud­ing former Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney and Min­nesota Rep. Michele Bach­mann, who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the de­bate but skip­ping the straw poll.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Hunts­man Jr. is also skip­ping the straw poll to fo­cus on New Hamp­shire, where he was cam­paign­ing Sept. 13.

New Hamp­shire’s pri­mary “isn’t a hokey straw poll,” he said. “You have to earn [the votes].”

Mr. Rom­ney, who par­tic­i­pated in and won straw polls in 2008 but even­tu­ally lost the nom­i­na­tion to Sen. John Mc­Cain, has said he will not par­tic­i­pate in any straw polls this time around.

But Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has surged ahead of Mr. Rom­ney in re­cent polls, is “all in” on Florida, in­clud­ing the straw poll.

“Gov. Perry is fully com­mit­ted to par­tic­i­pat­ing in P5,” cam­paign spokesman Ray Sul­li­van told the St. Peters­burg Times. “The gov­er­nor is com­mit­ted to work­ing hard for the vote in Florida.”

Gov. Scott has yet to en­dorse any­one in the GOP field, but in an­other in­ter­view Wed­nes­day — this one on MSNBC — he said both Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. Perry would win Florida in the gen­eral elec­tion in a head-to-head matchup with Pres­i­dent Obama.

On “Amer­ica’s Morn­ing News,” he said a hard-fought bat­tle among the GOP con­tenders would pay off for the party and vot­ers.

“I re­ally be­lieve we ought to have a heated pri­mary from the stand­point of what do you be­lieve in, and how are you go­ing to get our coun­try back to work, make sure our se­niors are taken care of, our mil­i­tary is taken care of. That’s the sort of thing we need to be hear­ing from these can­di­dates,” he said.

Florida’s 2012 pri­mary, usu­ally sched­uled af­ter Iowa, New Hamp­shire, Ne­vada and South Carolina but be­fore the Su­per Tues­day pack of pri­maries set next year for March 6, would shape up as a crit­i­cal show­down for the GOP con­test if the two front-run­ners come into the con­test with two wins apiece.

Mr. Scott said Mr. Perry’s state­ments about So­cial Se­cu­rity as “Ponzi scheme” will not hurt his chances in Florida.

“I don’t think it’s a prob­lem,” he said on MSNBC. “I think ev­ery­body re­al­izes it’s an is­sue we have to deal with.”

Scott

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