Reality, or something sort of like it, has finally caught up to Gov. Rick Scott. The Tea Party activists that help elect him? They're apparently not so enamored of Scott any longer. The leaders of what remains of the movement are not too pleased with Scott's performance as governor thus far, even though the political realities in Florida would have made it awfully hard for Scott to govern with a pure Tea Party agenda.
"He definitely seems to be going more mainstream," Everett Wilkinson, head of the South Florida Tea Party, tells the Sun-Sentinel.
"I said, 'This is my guy because I stand very strong against illegal immigration,' and I must say that I'm disappointed more has not been done in Florida about that," echoes Tea Party Fort Lauderdale leader Danita Kilcullen.
While the political currents during the 2010 election cycle may have primed Floridians to elect a Tea Party outsider, the political realities have made it hard for Scott to truly act like one.
He stumbled with two major moves: killing President Obama's federally funded high speed rail plan at a time when Floridians were hungry for jobs and an economic influx, and his championing of a bill to drug test welfare recipients. By some measures that program has actually cost the state money, and has become a popular attacking point for Scott's critics on the left.
That, combined with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union follies, sort of took the air out of the hopes of newly elected governors to bathe their policy in a big vat of piping hot Tea.
In the eyes of the Tea Party, one of the major failures so far of Scott's regime is a failure to crack down on illegal immigration. Scott came into office promising Arizona-style legislation, but has failed to implement any of it.
Of course's Arizona's plan, often seen as anti-Hispanic by opponents, was never really going to work in Florida. Florida's most important city has a Hispanic majority, and tourism from South America, especially booming Brazil, has become an important lifeline during the economic downturn. Contentious immigration legislation may still come down the pipeline, but leaders know something as harsh as the Arizona plan just isn't feasible in Florida.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
To their credit, Tea Party leaders are at least aware that Scott needs to soften his edges a bit to win reelection.
"He appears to be broadening his appeal," Brown tells the Sun-Sentinel. "Obviously to get re-elected, he needs to broaden his appeal from what it was early in his administration."
Florida's a large, complicated and diverse state. It's hard for any governor to rule with ideological purity. The most recent Democratic governors were hardly liberal ideologists. Jeb Bush was open to bending, and, of course, Charlie Crist may have went off the deep end by trying to appeal to everyone. Scott obviously won't become Crist 2.0, but its really no surprise that he's started to shift ever so slightly towards the center.