Gov. Rick Scott sought to rally the Republican faithful Saturday at the annual meeting of the leadership of the state GOP in a rambling speech that touched on jobs, Common Core school standards, grass-roots activism and his three grandchildren.
As he begain his first major campaign speech of 2014, Scott received a polite standing ovation from more than 200 activists at the Rosen Centre hotel. He got the most applause when he announced that state education leaders next week will release a set of changes to Florida education standards in place of the Common Core that many conservatives oppose.
"We're not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system," Scott said. He said a "data security bill" to be filed in the Legislature will stipulate that curriculum is controlled locally and schools can't collect "unnecessary information" from students. On Friday night, GOP activists approved a non-binding resolution in opposition to Common Core.
Scott spoke off-the-cuff to a crowd of more than 200 county chairs and state committee men and women, and if they were eager for some rhetorical red meat, he offered none. He never mentioned his likely Democratic challenger, ex-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, but said: "It's always easier to campaign than it is to govern."
"This is going to be a big year. We're going to win big in this state," Scott said. "We are doing very well because we care about education and we care about jobs."
Scott has been hobbled by weak popularity numbers throughout his term. His pollster, Tony Fabrizio, recently released a statewide poll that showed the governor trailing Crist by 4 percentage points. State GOP chairman Lenny Curry began the annual party meeting by saying the Republicans' mission for 2014 can be summed up in two words: "Rick Scott."
At the end of his 19-minute speech, Scott shook a few hands on the dais and an FDLE agent hustled him out a door to a waiting state car so that Scott could avoid reporters waiting to ask him questions.
-- Steve Bousquet