Rick Scott, in first crisis, picks governing over politics

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Political observers had wondered what role Gov. Rick Scott would play at this convention.

Storm tracker-in-chief wasn’t one of the foreseen answers.

Scott, facing his first potential big crisis as governor, avoided what could have been a major test as Tropical Storm Isaac blew by the state on its way to northwestern Gulf Coast, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

And in choosing to focus on Isaac rather than the politics of the presidential race, Scott also avoided a turn in the national spotlight, a speech that could have been seen as off-message for GOP candidate Mitt Romney. Scott would have talked about how good things are getting in Florida, economically speaking, a bit at odds with the Romney message that the economy is in a shambles.

While he wasn’t truly tested by a land-falling hurricane, Scott is getting good marks for focusing on governing rather than politics.

Much of the national TV news viewing audience has repeatedly this past weekend seen Scott talking weather, rather than Romney talking about his vision for the next four years.

The governor withdrew from any speaking roles in the convention, though he did address a breakfast for Florida’s delegates to the convention in Palm Harbor on Monday. But even there, he didn’t talk politics – he barely mentioned Romney’s campaign – but talked about Isaac.

Scott sounded like a mid-level bureaucrat, updating delegates on how many people were out of power and where, and even throwing out expected rainfall totals and the possible height of the storm surge.

“The most important thing we can be doing in the state is keeping everybody safe,” Scott said. “I wish I was going to able to participate more (in the convention) but the most important thing we can do is keep everybody safe.”

Scott hasn’t been invisible politically, but he hasn’t been typical of previous governors, who after all are the effective leaders of their party in the state. Scott has suffered from low popularity numbers, but he also has been more focused on selling his own message of job creation than all the messages of the wider Republican Party.

There also may be a lingering disconnect between the governor and his party – he wasn’t welcomed by the GOP at the outset of his effort to become governor: most of the Republican establishment backed his primary rival, Bill McCollum.

But Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry said Scott is now simply doing what he is good at: managing the situation.

“He’s a leader, he’s a manager, he’s a problem solver,” Curry said Monday. “Floridians are getting to see Rick Scott at his best.”

Scott spent part of Monday afternoon in Pinellas County, at the emergency operations center, before heading back to Tallahassee.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.