Democrats are high-fiving over the latest anonymous-source story that explores the message wedge between Mitt Romney and Rick Scott over the economy.
The former wants to remind voters how bad the economy is and blames Obama. The latter wants to remind how good the economy is getting and wants credit. And their opponents say the opposite (that is, that Florida is in bad shape because of Scott but is improving thanks to Obama).
Scott and the Republican Party of Florida have taken the extraordinary step to run television ads touting the governor and the economy even though he’s not on the ballot. And, yes, it conflicts somewhat with what Romney is saying. We explored the contradictions in March, when RPOF began running the ads.
Now, Bloomberg reports that folks from Romney’s camp told Scott to “tone it down.” State and national Democrats can't get enough of it. But the higher-ups in Romney and Scott worlds say that the substance of the report isn’t true.
Here’s what we specifically asked Brian Burgess (Scott’s chief spokesman), Tony Fabrizio (Scott’s top political adviser and pollster) and Romney’s Florida advisers Brett Doster and Albert Martinez,: did anyone affiliated with the Romney campaign directly or indirectly ask Scott directly or indirectly to ‘tone down’ his message.
The answer: No.
“This isn’t true,” Fabrizio said. “I'm on the calls with Boston. They haven't asked this. They haven't said anything about this. To my knowledge, and I would know, Rick Scott wasn't asked this and the Romney campaign didn't ask it."
Said Doster: “The consistent message from the Romney campaign has been that Gov. Romney has a plan from a national perspective that would get our economy back on track and that these policies would make it easier for governors like Gov. Scott to do their jobs.”
“There has been no attempt to spin bad economic news or get Florida’s governor to change his message,” Doster said.
The governor's office just released a statement that reads: "It’s nice to have even Democrats and President Obama’s campaign pushing a story acknowledging the good job Governor Scott is doing in Florida, but no Romney official has asked Governor Scott or staff to change our message. That being said, we know we have a long way to go to reach Governor Scott’s goal of 700,000 jobs in 7 years."
Of course, these are the official statements from the top level people who know or ought to know. Unless they're lying, the anonymous sources of the Bloomberg article are obviously singing from a different hymnal. That doesn't mean they're lying, either. We just don't know. They're not our sources.
Another oddity about the alleged tone-it-down request: Who on earth would think that Scott would go along with this? The guy's fighting for his public-relations life. He's not advertising two years before an election from a position of strength. Also, what's to tone down? Scott at times has said just what Romney's camp is saying: That a Republican in the White House will make his job easier. If there were a message Romney's camp would more likely send to Scott it's this: Stop wasting your money. Obama is pitching a similar message and it's not proving wildly successful. But then, like Scott, Obama has little choice. And he has less time.
The Bloomberg report surfaces at a bad time for anonymous Romney sources as well. The day before, Romney took the unusual step of smacking down a report, which originated with ABC and said that his team isn't vetting Sen. Marco Rubio as a possible vice-presidential running mate.
Both reports played into a well-trod narrative from the Washington-New York media, which are now paying keener attention to run-of-the-mill RPOF press releases. It's also difficult to ignore the fact that Romney has come to Florida about 54 times during his 2012 campaign, according to media reports and the Democrats, but has yet to stand beside Scott at a public event.
Remember, Scott campaigned as the businessman who can fix government. And Romney is campaigning as the businessman who can fix government.
But it's not Scott's message, per se, that's the problem. It's his popularity, or lack of it. Today, for instance, Romney spoke at a Latino conference in Orlando. He'll be gone before Scott gets there.
And as long as that keeps happening, tongues will wag and sources will whisper that Scott and Romney aren't on the same page.