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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Hispanic veto will be used against Scott

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I'm not sure when I became jaded enough to seriously consider how every political move will look when twisted into an attack ad in the next election.

I know it's wrong. Policy should matter more than political consequences, but that's not how the game is played these days.

So can't you just see how the decision by Gov. Rick Scott to veto a GOP-backed law that would have allowed some young immigrants to get Florida driver's licenses will be spun in the 2014 statewide campaign?

Forget for the moment whether it was right or wrong (and I think he was really wrong on this one). The reality is that Democrats will feed that decision to the governor for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The more conservative folks in the state will wonder what the fuss is all about, especially those hardened ones who would just as soon deport everyone who came to Florida from somewhere else. The coming barrage won't be aimed at them, though.

Remember the pivotal role Hispanics played in the 2012 election?

According to the Pew Research Center, Florida Hispanics voted 60-39 for President Barack Obama in 2012. That was up 3 points from 2008. The percentage of Hispanic voters in the state is increasing as well, with 17 percent in the last election compared with 14 percent in 2008.

More fun with numbers: Cuban voters make up just 34 percent of the Hispanic electorate, with the Puerto Rican population becoming a political force in Central Florida. Scott will probably get crushed against basically any Democratic candidate in South Florida, so he has to win the Interstate 4 corridor.

We got a glimpse here Tuesday of how challenging it will be. Three high-profile Hispanic leaders - state Rep. Janet Cruz, Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda and Hillsborough County school board member Susan Valdes - called a news conference to bash the governor.

It's not like he was operating from a position of strength, either. In April, his approval rating sat at 34 percent, even though he tried to make new friends by softening his hard line on education and reversing field to favor Medicaid expansion.

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That brings us back to where we came in.

Scott will have an election war chest approaching $100 million, and he probably won't face a primary challenge. He can afford a nightly blitz of spots touting his record on jobs, jobs and more jobs. The economy is getting better and it is happening on Scott's watch.

That certainly will help him.

But Democrats already thought they had a lot of red meat for a counterattack, and now they can add his immigration decision to the list.

They better be careful, though. Overdoing it could play into the governor's hands. Next year will be a real good one for advertising in Florida, and Rick Scott will be able to take a lot of the credit.

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