Curiouser ’n’ Curiouser

The above is one of several juicy quotations in a devastating piece by Michael C. Bender posted last week on Bloomberg.com. The story chronicles a series of jaw-dropping gaffes that have left many of the state’s political elite wondering how they let this numbskull bribe his way into the Governor’s Mansion. A quick recap:

Six weeks into office, Scott ticked off members of the black legislative caucus when, during a getting-to-know-you luncheon, he intimated that, just like them, he had lived in public housing and his father had a sixth-grade education.

He angered Cuban-American leaders when he flipped and flopped on whether he would order state officials to enforce a law barring state and local governments from doing business with companies that operate in Cuba. This was after he signed the law.

He embarrassed the King of Spain by joking about His Excellency’s elephant hunting during a meeting to discuss plans for the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s initial exploration of the state. Juan Carlos’ lavish hunting trip (taken during the nadir of Spain’s economic crisis) had the monarchy fighting calls for its dissolution.

And let’s not forget the ongoing criminal investigation over missing email, the federal lawsuit challenging Scott’s sweeping purge of voter rolls, his unconstitutional proposal to drug-test recipients of state assistance and the hiring of his third chief of staff in 18 months.

Oh, and his approval rating stands at 39 percent. (Good news: It’s 10 points better than his all-time low!)

The comedy stylings of Governor Strangeness might not be getting such national attention were this not an election year. And, yes, for the fourth straight presidential race, Florida is poised to defend its title as the swingiest of states — a true make-or-break prize for Teams Obama and Romney. Thanks to its mix of upstate reds, downstate blues and I-4 indies, Florida has morphed into a chronic, festering purple bruise on the electoral map. (It kind of makes one fond of autumn in, say, Alabama or Vermont, where the outcome of November’s race is predetermined and TV viewers are spared months of nauseatingly negative advertising.)

Gov. Scott is trying to save his political life by touting his record of economic success in Florida. While data shows the state’s fortunes are slowly improving, gains in employment and other positive economic indicators still lag behind most of the nation. But that hasn’t stopped Scott from crisscrossing the state trying to take credit for any uptick, even imaginary ones, in Florida’s economy. State GOP leaders, concerned they might go down with Scott’s sinking ship, have been running millions of dollars in TV ads trumpeting Scott’s success. They have also paid for robo calls and positive spin in social media.

Republicans should be pleased that Scott’s message of economic progress is tempering some of his strangeness. But in the messed-up world of political polarization, many GOPers are speaking out against Scott’s rose-colored visions. Why? Because Scott’s upbeat tone is in stark contrast to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s rhetorical flogging of the national economy. Any Republican who utters a word of good economic news threatens to stomp on Romney’s message that the “Obama economy” has stolen all our money and is making little children cry.

So Rick Scott, the Tea Party darling and head of one of Romney’s (many) must-win states, is being given the proverbial stiff arm by the nominee and his minions. Reports are Romney won’t speak with Scott, doesn’t want to be photographed with Scott, and has asked the governor and his people to shut up about the only thing Scott has going for him — any positive economic news.

And to add insult to injury, there’s this pathetic anecdote from the Bloomberg piece: Scott had hoped to deliver the keynote address this August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Instead, convention organizers have penciled him in as a speaker at “a welcoming event for media and delegates.” To be held at the Waffle House on I-75. (OK, that last part — only the last part — is a joke.)

In the words of the late, great Jim Morrison, who once showed his ass and then some, one steamy night in Coconut Grove:

When you’re strange

Faces come out of the rain

When you’re strange

No one remembers your name

When you’re strange

When you’re strange

When you’re strange.

Tricia Book

Booker is a writer and fitness instructor who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and blogs at mylefthook.c

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