ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott has only been in office for nine months, but already his business-minded, competitive eye is trained on the two-term governor just a few states to the west.
“I’m going to kick Rick Perry’s …” said Scott in an interview with The Daily Caller, before trailing off. “More jobs in Florida!” he said with a laugh that implied a serious but friendly competitiveness with the job-creating Texas governor. “He’s going to beat me? He’s not going to win.”
The Perry-Scott rivalry was put on national display at last Thursday’s Fox News-Google debate in Orlando. The Texan used his first question to throw a light jab at the Florida governor.
“Rick Scott’s sitting right over there and he and I compete every day, trying to get jobs into our states,” said Perry. He ended by touting Texas’ top economic status, quipping, “We plan on keeping it that way, Rick.”
The friendly jab reinforced what Scott made quite clear to TheDC. Perry may be competing against eight other presidential candidates, but he is also racing against someone else. Rick Scott may not be running for president, but he views Perry as competitor number one.
Still, Rick Scott, who is expecting his first grandchild soon, has a soft spot for Texas: for its economy, its relatively low unemployment, and its low taxes. (RELATED: Scott outlines vision for GOP nominee)
“I lived in Texas for a short time,” he said at one point. “And the second day there you start bragging about the darn state. We ought to be bragging about Florida!”
It’s the Lone Star State’s business-friendly environment that he seeks to emulate.
“They’ve created an attitude that says, ‘we like business people,’” said Scott. “You’re not going to build private-sector jobs if you don’t like business people. So that’s step one. Then they’ve gone and said, ‘How do we keep our taxes as low as possible?”
After talking with Scott, it’s clear his mindset is completely oriented around business. In fact, Scott believes the only difference between running a corporation and running a state government is that there’s “a lot more media” in government.
“If you’re going to be successful, you better have a goal, you better find really good people, better understand where all the money’s coming from,” he said. “And you better measure the living daylights out of it.”
High unemployment and a hostile business environment weren’t the only problems the tea party governor faced after taking office. He also had to fix a broken state Republican Party that hadn’t supported him and that had been damaged by the scandal surrounding its former chairman, Jim Greer, cleanse Tallahassee of the mark left by his wildly unpopular predecessor Charlie Crist, and work with legislators he had no relationship with. (RELATED: Herman Cain wins Florida straw poll)
“It gets easier every month because you get to meet people, and you understand what their goals are,” said Scott. “So I spent a lot of time doing that. The hardest thing was just not knowing some of the legislators. But the positive side of that is I can follow my agenda.”
Scott has essentially made job creation, along with creating a friendly business environment, his number top priorities since taking office. Ask him what he considers to be his greatest accomplishment thus far and he says Florida’s steadily falling unemployment rate.
“We created jobs every month but one,” said Scott. “So we’re always second or third. Texas is number one, still.”
“[W]e completely changed the direction of the state, from being perceived as a tough business climate, to now absolutely open for business,” he added. “We are absolutely open for business.”