Joe Henderson: Rick Scott came to Tally as an outsider, and that’s just how he might leave

in Statewide by

For as much as Gov. Rick Scott loves to deride what he calls “career politicians” — even those in his own party — those same people have forced him into what looks more and more like an inescapable trap.

Does he veto the just-passed $83 billion state budget and force lawmakers to return to Tallahassee to override him, which they almost certainly would?


Losing would continue the parliamentary butt-whipping Scott received during the Legislative Session at the hands of, er, um … his own party.

Does he continue to build on his bromance with President Donald Trump, whom, you may have heard, has made a few headlines lately? A story by Gary Fineout in The Associated Press pointed out that Scott’s good standing with the president won a payday that included $1 billion for the state’s mental hospitals as well as repairs on a federally owned dike that contributed to last year’s disastrous algae bloom from Lake Okeechobee.

Or does he cover his ears, hold his nose, and sign the budget so he can at least take that issue out of the headlines, while moving at least an arms-length distance away from Trump. That might help him avoid some of the splatter that seems ongoing with this president.

Or not.

While political fortunes can change with the next news cycle, Gov. Scott seems to be on a losing streak that rivals the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen.

The drubbing he took over his most-favored VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida programs — from, er, um, as I think we mentioned, his own party — are sure to dog him all the way to the ballot box if he challenges Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year.

Where does the governor turn now? He rode to Tallahassee on the tea party wave in 2011 only to adopt positions now his party’s leaders believe aren’t conservative enough.

How does he sell that in what still is a hypothetical run for his party’s Senate nomination in 2018? I mean, after state Republican leadership — especially House Speaker Richard Corcoran — took him on and won, they sure aren’t going to care what he wants in an election year.

He obviously doesn’t have enough allies in the Legislature to successfully challenge Corcoran, and his attempt to stir up a populist revolt by going on a statewide speaking jag to save his budget priorities was met with a resounding yawn.

All the while, his closeness to Trump was turning into a potential liability, and we can’t even judge the ramifications of that. If Scott is the Senate nominee and the president continues his current path, expect nonstop TV images of the governor and the president arm-in-arm, ad nauseam.

If things continue to deteriorate, it might even open the door for a serious challenge to Scott from the right.

As Yul Brenner sang in the King and I, which certainly seems apropos just now, it’s a puzzlement.

Here is some clarity though. Scott came to Tallahassee as an outsider. At the moment, it looks like that is how he will leave.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.