TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott is off to an unusually early start with his re-election ad campaign, and he’s doing it with an unusual kind of ad — an introductory ad that tells voters about his personal story.
That might be expected for a candidate new to the political scene but not for Scott, who’s been governor for more than three years.
Nonetheless, he and his political advisers apparently think he still needs to tell voters what kind of person he is.
In the ad, Scott talks about his childhood in a poor family, saying that experience is what motivates him to seek job growth in Florida.
“I think about my dad’s face when his car got repossessed,” Scott says in the ad. “My adoptive father had a sixth-grade education. They struggled for money. I think about my mom, how hard it was for her to put food on the table.
“So I think about those families. It drives you to every day get up and say, ‘OK, what can I do today that’s going to increase the chance that companies are going to hire more people in Florida.’”
In a news conference call with reporters Tuesday, state Sen. John Thrasher, Scott’s campaign chairman, said the purpose of the ad is for “people to see who this man really is, his passion, his heart.”
As to why people should need to be introduced to the man who’s been in the governor’s mansion for more than three years, he said, “In any kind of campaign, people forget, they have short memories ... there’s no focus from one campaign to the next over a four-year period.”
Thrasher said he believes Scott’s focus on jobs stems from his poor childhood.
“I know that he gets up every day worried about, and trying to create, opportunities … for every single family,” Thrasher said. “That’s who this man is. It all stems from his own experience, his own family, that struggled to make ends meet.”
Thrasher said Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, will spend $2.2 million for statewide broadcast and online ads. Depending on the nature of the ad buy, that could be one to two weeks’ worth of television buys.
Scott has made heavy use of his personal story on the campaign trail and as governor.
He grew up in a family of five children, in Urbana, Ill., where the family lived three years in public housing — something Scott mentions often — and in Kansas City, Mo., where they bought a three-bedroom house.
His father was a truck driver who, Scott says, often suffered layoffs. His mother did odd jobs.
University of Florida political scientist Dan Smith, a specialist in political campaigns, called it “quite telling” that Scott is going on the air so early, and with an ad on his personal story.
At this point in 2010, he noted, Scott was still a month away from his surprise announcement of his candidacy for governor.
“Clearly, the campaign feels the governor has to reinvent himself even though he’s been in office more than three years,” Smith said. “This time his likely opponent is the populist Charlie Crist, who’s famous for his ability to connect with people, and it’s clear that they’re trying to give Scott a little more of a common touch.”
But, Smith said, “Voters have pretty strong opinions about Rick Scott and I don’t think digging into his humble roots is really going to convince too many people that his interests are for those who are the least well-off. It’s a tough sell. Obviously, his campaign knows it because they’re starting so early.”
Democrats scoffed at the ad.
“Rick Scott wants Floridians to think he’s on their side, when in fact he has spent his whole career rigging the system so that only he and his special interest friends will profit,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.