Mitt Romney camp: No issue with Rick Scott
By Rachel Weiner,
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is denying that the former Massachusetts governor told Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to downplay economic progress in the state, an allegation reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday night. Joe Raedle GETTY IMAGES
Citing two unidentified sources, Bloomberg reported that a Romney adviser told Scott's team to tone down its positive economic message and emphasize that the state’s jobless rate could improve faster under Romney.
“Governor Romney frequently praises [governors] for their ability to overcome the job-stifling policies of the Obama administration,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “Any statement to the contrary is not in line with Governor Romney’s thoughts or his message.”
No one in the Romney inner circle nor Romney himself had any contact with Scott on his messaging on the economy, according to a senior Romney campaign source. Sources close to Scott insist that the story is “completely false.”
“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,” said Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.
With those blanket denials, it’s hard to see the story moving forward unless Bloomberg — or some other news organization — is able to get either the anonymous aides or Scott himself to go on the record with the allegations of downplaying economic progress in the Sunshine State. But Democrats, who have argued that Romney want the economy to get worse, have played up the report.
“The American people deserve leaders who will root for economic growth, not cynical politicians like Mitt Romney who root for failure,” said Democratic Governors Association Chair Governor Martin O’Malley (D).
There will always be some tension between the political calculations of the Romney campaign and individual GOP governors.
Romney’s campaign is premised on the idea that President Obama’s economic policies are not working in the country. But in some swing states — Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — the trend line on unemployment is headed downwards.
In Ohio, unemployment is down to 7.3 percent, numbers that both Gov. Bob Kasich (R) and the Obama campaign have been touting. But when May unemployment numbers came out, Kasich was more pessimistic. "Headwinds from Washington don't help, and I remain concerned about our future progress,” he said.
In a recent CNN interview, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Obama’s stimulus did “help us in the short run” but “think of how much better we’d do if we had President Romney.” Unemployment in the state is at 5.6 percent.
“We’re the comeback state in the United States,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said recently; unemployment there has fallen from 14.2 percent in August 2009 to 8.5 percent. But, he added, “our comeback is being slowed down by the mess in Washington.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who just won a recall election in part on a message of economic optimism, told reporters last week that “obviously voters feel better if the economy is better” and “one of the beneficiaries of that might be the president,” even if he doesn’t “deserve” credit.
Brian Hughes, a former spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, argued that the Romney camp always saw room to trumpet local success while arguing that for new national leadership.
“While I was at the party, the messaging was that they are not mutually exclusive,” he said. “The only conversations that were ever had” with the Romney team “really expressed the agreement that the two things could coexist.”
Scott has not been appearing with Romney at campaign stops around the state, but that likely has more to do with his own popularity than any conflicting messages. The latest Quinnipiac polling gives the first-term governor a favorable rating of just 39 percent, compared to a disapproval rating of 49 percent.