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Hurricane Guide

Isaac kept Gov. Scott away from convention

ASSOCIATED PRESS Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:47 AM

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PENSACOLA — On the final morning of the Republican National Convention, Gov. Rick Scott was as far away from Tampa as he could get without leaving the state.

Scott showed up in Pensacola, reassuring tourists that they shouldn't let Hurricane Isaac wash out their Labor Day weekend plans. It was windy and rainy, but Scott was telling visitors to come on down to the coast.

"We look forward to having full hotels again," Scott said. "We want to make sure everyone knows how nice it is here in Florida."

This wasn't supposed to be how Scott spent his week. Instead the Republican National Convention was going to give Scott a chance to bask in the political limelight as the GOP governor of the home state — which just happens to be the biggest swing state. Scott didn't have a primetime speaking slot, but he was still scheduled to address delegates.

It would have been the crowning moment for Scott who bucked the Republican establishment, spent millions of his own fortune and defeated their candidate en route to the governor's mansion two years ago. Scott made one of his first forays into politics by spending money on ads criticizing the federal health care overhaul pushed by President Barack Obama.

But the intrusion of Isaac spoiled those plans and forced Republicans to scuttle the first day of the convention when Scott was scheduled to appear. And even though the storm caused only isolated damage in Florida, Scott stayed away from many of the activities taking place at the convention site and around Tampa.

He only made it to the convention floor once, joining the Florida delegation on the final night when GOP nominee Mitt Romney gave his acceptance speech.

Instead during the week he visited other parts of the state impacted by Isaac like Palm Beach County. He spent time touting tourism in Key West and then Pensacola.

So it was Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll - not Scott - who was given the spotlight when Florida delivered its 50 delegates to Mitt Romney. It was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio - and former Gov. Jeb Bush - getting interviewed time and again by national media about Mitt Romney and Republican politics.

Scott did spend time with Florida Republicans on Monday but instead of firing up the delegates about the convention he was telling to them about the bands of Isaac skirting by the Tampa Bay area.

Tampa's Democratic Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who kept trumpeting the convention as a way to spur future growth and business for the region, praised Scott's decision to sidestep much of the convention. Scott and Buckhorn talked in the days leading up to the convention when it appeared that Isaac was going to pass closer to the Tampa Bay area.

"I think he did exactly what he should have been doing," Buckhorn said. "Both he and I have said from Day One that public safety trumps politics."

But while Scott may not have gotten as much national exposure for his politics, his decision to avoid much of the convention hoopla may help with Florida voters. Polls have shown that Scott has struggled to win over a majority of voters since becoming governor.

Rep. Will Weatherford, the incoming Florida House speaker, said focusing on the storm was a better way for Scott to spend his time than "yucking it up" with other Republicans.

"I think it's his finest week as governor," said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

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