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Friday, Aug 29, 2014
Politics

Scott launches attack ad, loses top fundraiser

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Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign rolled out a new television ad Monday attacking his likely Democratic opponent for re-election, former Gov. Charlie Crist, but the ad launch was disrupted by questions about the resignation of Scott’s top fundraiser — health care magnate Miguel Fernandez.

Fernandez quit the campaign last week, reportedly over differences over its style and message. But hints surfaced in news reports that Fernandez, a Cuban immigrant and self-made billionaire, was also unhappy about campaign staffers mocking Spanish accents.

The campaign says Fernandez is leaving to spend more time with his family and business.

Scott attacks Crist over the Affordable Care Act in the new ad, but it repeats discredited criticisms of the plan.

The ad uses a clip from a March 9 interview in which Candy Crowley of CNN’s “State of the Union” asked Crist whether the act has “irreparably harmed Floridians in any way,” and he responded, “No, I think it’s been great.”

The ad then repeats the charges that the health reform plan caused 300,000 Floridians to have their health insurance “cancelled,” that patients “may lose their doctors,” and that plan will cause “less work hours for American jobs.”

“Obamacare may be great for Charlie’s political career, but it’s not great for the rest of us,” the ad says.

The reference to cancelled health insurance plans is about notices sent last fall by Florida Blue to individual subscribers that their plans didn’t meet health care act standards and would be discontinued. But the company said it would switch the customers to new plans, and later announced that because of a delay in the new standards, the old plans would continue through 2014 anyway.

“Less work hours” refers to a Congressional Budget Office estimate of the effect of the health care act on the labor market. But that report didn’t say anyone would lose jobs. It said some workers will choose not to work if they’re able to get health coverage without having to depend on employer-provided insurance.

Scott launched his ad campaign two weeks ago with a $2 million purchase of broadcast time in Florida markets.

He is also using the power of the governor’s office to travel the state, announcing politically popular state grants and budget items or hammering home campaign messages. He held an event with Medicare recipients in Tampa on Friday to press his point that cuts from the Affordable Health Care Act to the Medicare Advantage program will force some recipients to change doctors and health plans — a contention also disputed by some experts.

Crist, on the other hand, has caused concern among some Democrats because his campaign has appeared low key so far.

With less campaign money available, he has been concentrating instead on generating news headlines through interviews, or “earned media.” He also is busy fundraising, promoting his new political book and meeting with Democratic party activists and elected officials.

Since Crist’s announcement in November that he would run, he has done more than 100 one-on-one media interviews, including two Sunday political shows in South Florida on Sunday, said spokesman Kevin Cate.

Monday morning, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera held a conference call with reporters to talk about the Scott campaign’s new ad.

But when the question session began, the first three from reporters on the call were about Fernandez’s departure. A Republican Party official managing the call abruptly ended it.

The Miami Herald, which reported Fernandez’s departure over the weekend, cited an email from Fernandez about two Scott staffers joking in fake Mexican accents on the way to a campaign event at a Mexican restaurant.

But Lopez-Cantera said Fernandez quit only for family and business reasons.

“This is a diverse organization and we don’t tolerate inappropriate comments,” Lopez-Cantera said. “I don’t believe they happened.”

wmarch@tampatrib.com

813-259-7761

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