At his beachfront mansion in Naples, the doorbell rings as Gov. Rick Scott anxiously awaits the arrival of his top political adviser. A servant opens the door as Scott stands in the foyer.
Scott: You're seven minutes late. You've got to learn to be on time. Let's go down to the basement and plan my re-election strategy.
Adviser: Your house on the beach has a basement?
Scott: Bunker, really. It's where I keep all my firearms in preparation for civil unrest, and it's where I have secret cabinet meetings. We had to dig up a bunch of sea turtle nests in the middle of the night before the enviro whackos realized they were there, or I would've never gotten the permits to build this place.
Scott: Yes. Now forget about that. How, uh, am I, uh, going to get re-elected?
Adviser: The easy answer is: Spend another $70 million.
Scott: I know that, but, uh, how do we get my poll numbers to improve?
Adviser: Governor, if I can be so bold, your poll numbers probably won't improve until you start running campaign advertisements that tout your message, unfiltered through the lens of the media.
Scott: I don't like the media. Bunch of sissy journalists! They've never run a business and don't know how to do anything but write words. Let's cut funding for journalism schools. Florida is the best place in the entire world, and I'm the governor of that place in the world. Why don't they ever write that?
Adviser: Sir, the problem is you aren't well-liked because voters don't really like you.
Scott (raising his eyebrows): What do you mean?
Adviser: Voters don't feel like they know you.
Scott: I ditched my coat and tie for those polo shirts my pollster told me to wear and my poll ratings went up.
Adviser: The bump was just 2 points and for only three days. You need a long-term fix. You came into office an unknown with no friends, no alliances, no favors owed, and no base of support. We need to fix that by getting people to like you.
Scott: We just did an education "listening tour." How did it go over?
Adviser: Well, the media covered those tours with a skeptic eye because of the way the participants were screened. It looked like you only wanted to listen to those who agree with you.
Adviser: Governor, if I can be blunt, you don't connect with people. Our focus group participants say things like, "weird, socially awkward, not comfortable in his own skin, not like me, Skeletor, dishonest, like a character from Star Trek, and unfriendly" when asked to provide top-of-mind thoughts about you.
Scott (eyes narrowing): Who needs friends? I have hundreds of millions of dollars I can use to make the feeble-minded voters think I'm, uh, their favorite uncle.
Adviser: Well, Governor, you're right; money can help you with most of your deficiencies. But if you don't want to waste your children's inheritance, we need to shore up your numbers because even candidates who spend their own millions can lose. I suggest you do some public events that are transparent. I'm talking Americana-style campaign events where you interact with real people from across the state at community fairs, Little League games, spaghetti suppers, Fourth of July parades and things like that.
Scott: I hate that stuff. And I don't know … Like 47 percent of the people don't pay taxes or are on welfare, or entitlement programs that ought to be called welfare, things like Social Security and Medicare; what a bunch of takers — I don't even eat spaghetti. If you planned for your future, you wouldn't need those things. Mitt Romney and I are planners. I bet Mitt doesn't like spaghetti, either. Why won't he return my calls?
Adviser (with dumbfounded look): Uh, Governor, the problem is that you ran as a reformer, and then you lined up with all the Tallahassee insiders and lost the support of those who wanted reform. Since then, you've ticked off teachers and firefighters, seniors on Medicaid, and all state employees in the pension pool — even grade-school kids don't like you. Among Republican activists your approval numbers are 25 points lower than where they should be. People don't know you, and when they feel they do know you, they don't like what they see. Jeff Atwater is chomping at the bit to run against you in the primary because he smells weakness. And then there's Charlie …
Scott: Jeff Atwater is a clown.
Adviser: Yes, but people like clowns because they are friendly and likeable. Same with Charlie — Charlie Crist.
Scott: Atwater acts like Captain Kangaroo if you ask me, and Charlie's nothing but an empty suit. (Getting angry.) I don't trust those guys. They have no substance! (Slams hand on table.)
Adviser: Unfortunately, style and likeability matter more than substance, Governor.