Floridians are optimistic. A total of 67 percent of voters are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going in the state, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, and 59 percent say the state economy is “excellent” or “good.” And 53 percent are optimistic about the next four years, with Gov. Rick Scott in charge.
But there’s an apparent paradox. While just three months ago 49 percent voted to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott, he’s not getting the credit for Floridians’ brighter mood: just 42 percent approve of the job he’s doing, with 47 percent disapproving, suggesting that Floridians are crediting other factors for their better fortunes. When asked if they feel better off than they were four years ago, just 46 percent of Floridians say they do, a tepid endorsement of the Scott years, considering what condition the state was in four years ago, when it was barely emerging from the Great Recession.
In comparison, 72 percent of voters are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going in Ohio, another major swing state and a state severely affected by the Great Recession, and 60 percent say the state economy is “excellent” or “good.” There, 66 percent of voters are optimistic about their future with Gov. John Kasich in charge. Kasich has a 55 percent approval rating.
“Florida Gov. Rick Scott has never been popular,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. He spent virtually his entire first term with a negative job approval and was reelected by the narrowest of margins. Now he is back underwater with voters. But it doesn’t matter because the one time he had more supporters than opponents was when it counted – on Election Day. Even though Florida voters have a negative view of him, they are optimistic about the next four years with him in control.”
Still, an unpopular government gives the Legislature more leverage against him, and sends a message to prospective gubernatorial candidates for the 2018 race: distance yourself from the Scott record. That may explain how easy it was for Scott’s fellow-cabinet members Adam Putnam, the agriculture commissioner, and Jeff Atwater, the chief financial officer, to be more critical of the way Scott and his administration got rid of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey
Sen. Marco Rubio fares a little better, which may play into his decision to run for the White House in 2016, though the numbers aren’t stellar: 47 percent of Florida voters approve of the job Rubio, with 35 percent disapproving, and 44 percent say he deserves reelection in 2016, a lukewarm total from a home state for a man considering the highest office. Sen. Bill Nelson is closer to Scott territory, with a 43-26 percent approval.
“The numbers show that he is in good, but not great, shape for re- election with voters and has a positive image with them,” Brown said. “If he does not seek a second term, his open Senate seat will become a major prize and the subject of a massive free-for-all among both parties.”