As his campaign seeks to re-establish itself in the top tier of the Republican presidential nomination fight, suggest that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is hiring on a series of consultants who last worked together on the 2010 campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Anderson, Warfield and Fabrizio were the strategic core of Scott’s operation in the last election — a race where the one-time health care executive spent tens of millions on ads that blanketed the Florida airwaves and delivered him a somewhat unexpected victory. (Anderson is also tightly connected to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an early Perry endorser.)
“Those guys understand messaging and targeting and the complications of running a campaign in Florida, which really ends up being seven or eight separate campaigns under one umbrella organization, since the electorate is so diverse here,” said Sally Bradshaw, a political confidante to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
That Perry would expand beyond his tight-knit political circle is illuminating and suggests that he recognizes that the first two months of his campaign have been something short of stellar.
That he brought in the team that led the governor of Florida to victory is even more telling.
With the Republican nominating calendar now all but set — New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is expected to put the Granite State primary on Jan. 10 — Florida could well be the central vote in deciding the identity of the Republican nominee.
The state is set to vote on Jan. 31, after Iowa (Jan. 3), New Hampshire (presumably Jan. 10) and South Carolina (Jan. 21) but before Nevada (Feb. 4), Michigan (Feb. 28) and Arizona (Feb. 28).
That fourth-in-line status could mean that we see a replay of 2008 when Arizona Sen. John McCain’s defeat of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in Florida effectively signaled the end of the nomination fight.
According to Bradshaw, Perry has been very aggressive in the state — longtime Florida veteran Randy Enwright is directing his operation — from the get-go. “He invested in Florida within weeks of announcing that he was running,” she said.
Perry, too, has been solicitous of Scott — giving him a shout out in a September debate in Tampa and once referring to him as a “stud”. (Really, he said that.)
The obvious next question is whether Scott will endorse Perry. Scott’s first year (or so) in office has been decidedly rocky but he remains popular among Republicans.
In a recent Quinnipiac University poll just 37 percent of respondents approved of the job he is doing while 50 percent disapproved. Among Republicans, however, seven in ten approved of how he is handling his job.
Those numbers suggest that a Scott endorsement would help Perry although gauging just how much it might aid him is tough.
Perry’s new hires send a clear signal, however: He is in Florida to win it.