Gov. Rick Scott's poll numbers are so bad that he had to reverse course this year and undo some of the cuts to education he demanded last year -- reductions that caused his popularity ratings to bottom out and stay there.
This year, as Scott pushed a more modest agenda in the Legislature, his political team's goal was simple: Boost his poll numbers two years before he faces re-election by focusing on jobs and how the economy is improving. So it's planning to run an ad touting Florida's economic recovery under Scott.
Florida's economy is in the toilet. At least that's what Republican Mitt Romney's January TV ad suggested.
"Things are not working, and we're scraping by," one woman intones in the Romney ad. "Almost a million people are unemployed and looking for work here," two others add.
Contrast that bleak portrayal with the upbeat celebration of Florida's economy in the Republican Party of Florida's just-announced ad, which feature fake newspaper fronts to drive home the message that things are getting better.
"Across Florida, here's the news: companies are hiring, expanding," a female narrator says. "Florida's unemployment rate continues to get better."
So which message is right? They probably both are to varying degrees. Except they expose how fungible and politically expedient jobs and economy numbers are.
If you're Republican Romney, Florida's economy is bad and it's Obama's fault. And if you're Democratic Obama, Florida's economy is getting better and it's due to Obama. But if you're Republican Scott, Florida's economy is getting better and it's due to Scott. And if you're a Florida Democrat, Florida's economy is bad and it's Scott's fault.
No wonder the ranks of non-partisan voters are growing.
Still, assuming the RPOF ad runs and Scott gets a measure of credit, voters are likely also to believe that the economy is getting better in 2012. But Scott isn't on the ballot then. Obama is. And he'll take credit for the improvement.
And what of Romney's claim things are still horrible in Florida? He might want to ask RPOF or Scott about that.
Here are the two spots: