Gov. Rick Scott talks to voters while holding his grandson during a visit to Naples. (Scott McIntyre/Naples Daily News)
Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)
“Can you say hello?” asked Gov. Rick Scott, in a bubbly, happy tone.
The person he was trying to coax into offering a greeting was his toddler grandson, Quinton, whom Scott held in his arms as he waited last week in line to vote early at the Collier County Public Library.
As he chatted with voters in line with him – holding Quinton the entire time – Scott was relaxed, happy, and personable. This is his element, away from the larger crowds and the television lights where Scott often seems uncomfortable.
Through his first four years in office, Scott has always been a gushing grandpa. Frequently talking about his grandchildren with reporters, and bringing them with him for a range of public events.
That is where Scott has been consistent, while many other aspects about the state’s chief executive have changed, or “evolved,” as political candidates often like to phrase it.
The former health care executive rode into Tallahassee in 2010 on a Tea Party wave, promising to be the political outsider who would shake up an insider-driven state government.
Each year, Scott’s administration started the two-month Legislative session with a well-defined set of policy priorities. While Scott has secured more wins than losses, the changing direction, even evolution, of those policies has helped define his four years in the governor’s mansion.
Though Scott has changed his position on several issues, the fact that he is running against former Gov. Charlie Crist has helped knee-cap that sort of attack against him. Crist is a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, and many of his positions have changed with his political affiliation.
Crist is more likely to take the heat from voters than Scott.
“Charlie was a switcher,” said Pappy Wagner, a Naples Republican who says Scott has done the best job as governor since Jeb Bush. Crist “has just switched around so much, I don’t care for that.”
Joe Agiato, a retired Naples resident who voted early the same day last week as Scott, puts it this way when describing Crist: “You can’t trust a man who can’t trust himself.”
But the truth is, Scott’s story is, in part, that of an outsider who changed from the political novice with a stubborn agenda to an experienced political pragmatist who learned to practice the give-and-take needed for any governor to succeed.
“I think the fact that he was new to state government offered a fresh perspective,” said Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican who served as speaker of House when Scott was first elected. “I don’t know that it ever hindered anything, but it was definitely a new approach.”