Romney and Fla. Governor Clash Over State’s Economy

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and Gov. Rick Scott celebrate their election victory in November 2010. | Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT

By Mary Ellen Klas and Toluse Olorunnipa The Miami Herald Numbers may not lie, but Republicans Mitt Romney and Florida Gov. Rick Scott are using them to portray two very conflicting points of view about the state’s economic picture. In a new television ad, the Romney campaign plays melancholy music as it describes “Obama’s Florida” as a state with “8.6 percent unemployment, record foreclosures, 600,000 more Floridians in poverty.” Scott greets the same 8.6 percent unemployment number as a sign of rapid improvement, proclaiming on his website that it is “the lowest it’s been since December 2008!” Unlike Romney, Scott has carefully avoided criticizing the president and instead turned the data into promoting his record of creating jobs. The governor also tells audiences that “the number of unemployed has gone from 568,000 to 320,000,” “median home prices are up,” and Florida’s job growth rate “has been positive for 23 consecutive months.” It’s a dissonance that may become more distinct as Romney and Scott take the stage during the Republican National Convention this month and as Romney tours Florida on Monday, with a late-day stop in Miami. “What I’m going to talk about is pretty much what I do every day, what I ran on,” Scott said last week when asked what he’ll say during his convention speech. “It’s how do we get our state back to work.” But the numbers he cites don’t jibe with the narrative that Romney’s campaign wants Floridians to hear. Romney’s team is carefully scripting a convention playbook that would persuade voters that the economy is still in the tank after 3 1/2 years under President Obama. With an abundance of statistical data, each candidate can cherry-pick the numbers to best fit his Florida narrative. With 29 electoral votes, Florida is considered a must-win state for Romney — and, his advisors say, he’s not likely to change his message.
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