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Tre’ Evers: On the contrary — Rick Scott, John Morgan real winners of 2017 Legislative Session

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Don’t pick a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel — or so the saying goes. Well, it’s a good thing Peter Schorsch doesn’t actually buy ink, because I’ve got a bone to pick with him.

Rick Scott and John Morgan could be considered “losers” only in a Tallahassee-centered universe.

These two guys are among the best-known (i.e., most hated or loved) names in Florida. No legislator — in either party — enjoys anywhere near the cachet of these twin political titans, whether you measure by name recognition, professional success or personal wealth.

Sure, their legislative agendas fared poorly. However, Tallahassee’s “session thinking” is astonishingly shortsighted. Look at the long game to understand how this year’s legislative combat strengthened both Scott and Morgan. Their priorities remain wildly popular with voters while the ideas of their opponents have lost ground with all but the chattering classes. Scott wanted incentives to create more jobs plus money to fix the Herbert Hoover Dam that would help the Everglades and Morgan wanted to implement the medical marijuana initiative, all of which were foiled by lawmakers.

Scott’s legislative losses are fuel for his political persona. Consider: In 2010, Rick Scott came from nowhere. A conservative, tea party firebrand, he blasted both parties on his way to a self-funded victory and then won a bruising re-election, spending even more of his own money. The scars of those campaigns left Scott with a battered approval rating, except among Republicans, where his numbers have consistently exceeded 75 percent.

Bashing insiders — even those within his party — is how Rick Scott won statewide in 2010. Republican lawmakers just built him a platform to do it again in 2018. A few months ago, it would have been tough to believe that the GOP’s legislative leadership would attack the most popular Republican in Florida, giving him cause to travel the state promoting jobs and mainstreaming his image. But that’s what happened.

Every week, Governor Scott appears in front cameras blasting Republican insiders while promoting jobs with local business people. Meanwhile, he raises money for his political committee and places millions of dollars of TV advertising. Best of all, he gets to run against the “Tallahassee politicians,” who few Floridians know but all instinctively mistrust.

Then there’s John Morgan — the best-known Democrat in Florida. Not only is Morgan’s face routinely plastered on billboards and TV ads across the Sunshine State, but his colorful, rant at Boots and Buckles (in which he exhorted young people to vote for his Medical Marijuana amendment) is an enduring reminder that his outspoken, charismatic brand of political celebrity appeals to many. He failed in 2014 but succeeded in 2016. Now, he’s the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Governor, even though he may not run.

Again, consider the long game. John Morgan isn’t going anywhere, and this Tallahassee setback is merely political fuel; it will empower him to either sue the Legislature, run for Governor or both. Either way, he’ll be in the headlines. And to Republicans hoping John Morgan runs because he’s said and done crazy things: You must have missed the 2016 election.

Democrats love to hate Rick Scott and Republicans love to hate John Morgan. However, the 2017 legislative session made both men more palatable to those who hate them and more powerful among those who love them. So, what looks like a setback on Adams Street is likely to play well in Paisley, Palatka, Palm Beach or as the saying goes, Peoria — making Rick Scott and John Morgan the biggest winners of the session.

Tre’ Evers is a Republican political consultant and communications specialist with Consensus Communications.

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