Gov. Rick Scott is kickstarting an online ad campaign that hits an old, but target-rich, opponent: Obamacare.
In a testimonial-style video geared toward the elderly (women over 60 are the likeliest of all voters in Florida), Scott talks about the state's seniors and highlights the cuts and reductions in Medicare Advantage spending under the Affordable Care Act.
"Seniors retire based on a belief that they’re going to have a healthcare system that’s going to be there," Scott says in the 30-second clip, which many will see on Facebook, paid for by his campaign. "These Medicare cuts that the president has caused are the wrong thing for Florida seniors."
The Florida Democratic Party issued a blistering response pointing out that Scott once led the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, which was socked with a record Medicare-fraud fine of $1.7 billion.
"He lost the right to accuse Democrats of raiding Medicare when he oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation's history," Democratic party spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement.
While Democrats and some analysts also dispute the severity of the cuts on services, there's one politician who once shared Scott's opinion about Medicare Advantage's reductions in Obamacare: Charlie Crist, the former Republican-turned-independent governor who's now running as a Democrat against Scott for his old job back.
"I would have voted against the bill because of unacceptable provisions like the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program," Crist said in 2010.
Crist now supports Obama and Obamacare.
As the cuts go into effect, Republicans nationwide are zeroing in on Medicare Advantage (some background here on the program). Scott's team on Monday issued a press statement about the issue after he joined other governors in a meeting with President Obama.
In pressing the criticism of Obamacare, Scott is also on familiar ground.
Before he ran for governor, the once-little-known businessman founded his own political group, Conservatives for Patients Rights, to fight the president's healthcare proposal when it first started in 2009 (also, he was vocal in opposing Hillarycare in the 1990s).
The nucleus of the CPR group became Scott's successful campaign in 2010, a conservative-wave year when Republicans harnessed anti-Obamacare sentiment, fueled by seniors' concerns over Medicare.
Obama overcame the law's unpopularity in 2012, and successfully pitched it to Hispanics in Spanish-language ads. But the botched rollout last year seriously wounded the program's reputation and it remains less popular than popular in most state and national polls.
In going after Obamacare, Scott is essentially nationalizing the race, skipping mentions of Democrats like Charlie Crist or Nan Rich and paying no mind to Libertarians like candidate Adrian Wyllie.
Polls indicate Crist is better favored than Scott right now in Florida. But Scott polls better than Obama. The last Quinnipiac University survey a month ago found 41 percent approved of the way the governor handles his job, while 49 percent disapproved. That's an index of -8 points. Obama's index: -11 (42-53 percent).
Another poll plus for attacking Obamacare: It helps Scott shore up his Republican base. Right now, Crist gets as much as double the crossover voters that Scott does (i.e., 12 percent of Republicans said they'd vote for the Democrat but only 6 percent of Democrats said they'd vote for Scott in Quinnipiac's last survey).
The more money Scott pumps in, the faster those Republicans are expected to come home, thereby narrowing the gap with Crist.
Scott, who has raised about $31 million since the end of his last election, spent about $4.3 million and has $27 million in the bank. He hopes to spend as much as $100 million.
Crist wants to have at least half of what Scott spends. He has raised about $5.4 million and spend $518,000 since announcing his bid in early November. He has about $4.8 million on hand.
Here's Scott's statement as given in the video below:
“We have so many wonderful seniors in our state that are very dependent on Medicare. Seniors retire based on a belief that they’re going to have a healthcare system that’s going to be there. We already know that 300,000 people in our state were told they’re going to lose their insurance. But now, under Medicare, we’re seeing these dramatic rate cuts. It’s going to have a devastating impact on their ability to one, get their doctor – look, they rely on their doctor; get to go to the hospital that they trust; make sure that they get prevention services that they deserve. These Medicare cuts that the president has caused are the wrong thing for Florida seniors."