On the road with Rick Scott: Campaign starts week on Florida's east coast

'You worry every day. You worry all the time. You say your prayers.'

The Daily News is on the road this week shadowing the Rick Scott campaign and also will shadow the Bill McCollum campaign for a week starting Thursday. Watch naplesnews.com and the Daily News for daily reports and subsequent stories on these two GOP governor candidates who face off Aug. 24.

Elections 2010 Page:

— For Rick Scott, the path to the governor’s office in Tallahassee runs through Steve’s Famous Diner, a homey strip mall eatery in this northeast Florida city.

With two weeks of campaigning left before the Aug. 24 primary, and polls showing him with a lead over his chief rival, Bill McCollum, the state’s attorney general, Scott is criss-crossing Florida in an effort to maintain the enthusiasm he’s generated since entering the race in April.

Scott started his day Monday at a home builders association meeting in Flagler County before his 11 a.m. stop at Steve’s Famous Diner.

“I’m working from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night, and if there’s an event I could do at midnight, I’d do that too,” Scott said.

Entering the home stretch of the primary season, University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus said voters should expect increased intensity from both the Scott and McCollum camps until election day. If true, it will be an impressive feat, considering the already high intensity of the campaign.

Both candidates will be making phone calls, activating their grassroots networks and getting out for meet and greets where they can shake hands and lock in votes, MacManus said.

“It’s all about ‘GOTV’ – get out the vote,” MacManus said. “People pretty much know each of their messages and backgrounds. Now they’ve got to get their supporters to the polls.”

During campaign stops Monday, Scott, who is from Naples, reiterated the message he’s been blanketing the state with using more than an estimated $30 million in television and radio ads. He casts himself as a self-made man who will utilize common sense business practices to turn Florida around.

Scott promises to slash property tax rates by 19 percent, phase out the business tax, and reduce regulations that cause delays.

“We will make this the No. 1 state to do business,” Scott told about 25 supporters in Daytona Beach. “We already have the weather. We already have the beaches. We don’t have the income tax. We’re a right to work (state).”

The crowds on Monday -- both at Steve’s Famous Diner and at Jimmies Restaurant and Tavern in Rockledge – were friendly, and Scott seemed at ease. In rooms full of middle-class voters, Scott comes across like the guy next door, despite being a multimillionaire.

Sitting in a maroon booth at Steve’s Famous Diner, Sam Harman, 54, a deputy sheriff and retired state trooper who lives in Deltona in Volusia County, said he already voted for Scott via absentee ballot. Harman, who considers himself “ultra-conservative,” said Florida needs “new blood” in Tallahassee.

“I’m sure there are things about Rick I don’t like, but I haven’t found any of them yet,” Harman said.

Only once – at Jimmies – did the issue of Scott’s role in the $1.7 billion Medicare fraud case at his former hospital company, Columbia/HCA, come up.

A lot of health-care companies paid fines in the 1990s, Scott said, and as CEO at the time he takes responsibility for everything that went wrong. And as he did during his recent debates with McCollum, Scott directed the questioner to visit a personal website to get his take on the issue.

Alice Kreitz, 71, of Melbourne, who attended the event, said she initially thought Scott was a “crook.” Not anymore. Now Kreitz, a longtime conservative activist, is backing Scott 100 percent.

“I don’t think he was aware, or they would have locked him up,” Kreitz said of the Columbia/HCA fraud.

Voters should expect to be bombarded with even more political ads from the Scott and McCollum camps in the next two weeks, MacManus said. In a campaign like this, Scott’s current lead won’t guarantee a win in two weeks.

“If you’re behind, you are driven to work hard because polls don’t predict turnout and opinions can change,” MacManus said.

Scott said he’s not concerned about what the McCollum camp is up to, only what he’s doing. He expects to win.

“You never get comfortable, right?” Scott said about his lead. “You worry every day. You worry all the time. You say your prayers.”

Earlier

Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott said people started suggesting he run for governor after hearing him speak out about how the federal government needed to stay out of health care.

Provided by Rick Scott for Governor

Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott said people started suggesting he run for governor after hearing him speak out about how the federal government needed to stay out of health care.

ROCKLEDGE _ Rick Scott had a standing ovation waiting for him when he arrived at Jimmies Restaurant and Tavern this afternoon.

An older crowd of about 75 energetic supporters enthusiastically shook Scott’s hand and posed for photos when he arrived.

During a half-hour discussion, Scott hit on many of the same topics as he did in the previous stop in Daytona Beach – his rags-to-riches life story, his business experience – but this crowd seemed particularly concerned about health care and immigration.

Scott seemed confident, both because he was in front of a friendly crowd and because polls show him with a double-digit lead over his chief rival, Bill McCollum, Florida’s attorney general.

“You never get comfortable, right?” Scott said about his lead. “You worry every day. You worry all the time. You say your prayers.”

Most in the crowd seemed to be backing Scott from the time they arrived, but Pam Day, 69, of Indian Harbor Beach, said she came for information about the candidate. Day described herself as a fiscal conservative who is still learning about politics.

“I’m pleased with what I heard,” she said. “I definitely don’t like Bill McCollum. He’s a career politician.”

Earlier

DATONA BEACH _ For Rick Scott, the path to the governor’s office in Tallahassee runs through Steve’s Famous Diner.

Scott’s campaign started a swing along the east coast this morning.

After an 8 a.m. event with the Flagler County-Palm Coast Home Builders Association, Scott stopped at Steve’s Famous Diner in Daytona Beach late this morning to chat with about 25 grassroots supporters.

He spoke for about a half hour, focusing on his rags-to-riches personal story, his background in business, and his commitment to limited government, low taxes and families.

“Long-term, the government never spends your money well,” Scott told the crowd.

Kevin Gallagher, 53, of Flagler Beach, said he supports Scott because he has a plan and has been more positive than his opponent, Bill McCollum, in the Aug. 24 primary.

For Gallagher, this is the first campaign he has actively supported.

“The way he talks is very straight-forward to people,” Gallagher said of Scott.

“His whole story, ‘Let’s Get to Work,’ that’s what people are looking for,’’ Gallagher said.

MORE DAILY NEWS COVERAGE ON RICK SCOTT

On the road with Rick Scott: Campaign starts week on Florida's east coast

Gloves come off in second debate between gov candidates Rick Scott and Bill McCollum

Third wheel? GOP’s Mike McCalister is on ballot with Rick Scott, Bill McCollum

POLL: Columbia/HCA whistleblowers stunned Rick Scott is atop Florida governor polls

Church co-founded, led by Rick Scott gives aid to Immokalee’s farmworkers

Rick Scott left Presbyterian church to help found Naples Community Church

Rick Scott for governor of Florida catches on with out-of-state donors

PHOTOS: Rick Scott discusses Arizona immigration law in Naples

Finance report: Scott loaned his campaign $22.9M and has spent nearly as much

Click here for related story: For the record, do Rick Scott and Bill McCollum vote themselves?

Click here for related story: VIDEO/PHOTOS: Rick Scott stops in Naples during state-wide six day bus tour

Click here for related story: POLL: McCollum campaigns on GOP opponent Rick Scott's turf

Click here for related story: Judge: McCollum can get funds to match Rick Scott

Click here for related story: VIDEO: Gov. candidate Rick Scott talks to local Republican women's group

Click here for related story: VIDEO/PHOTOS: Howdy neighbor: Rick Scott, Collier Democratic offices in same plaza

Click here for related story: Rich Rick: Governor candidate Scott worth $218 million, investments reach Latin America

Click here for related story: Dodgeball: Rick Scott, Bill McCollum debate about debate dates

Click here for related story: Rick Scott interviews: Governor candidate on HCA, oil spill, illegal immigration

Click here for related story: VIDEO/PHOTOS: Florida governor candidates Sink, McCollum, Chiles make pitch to editors

Click here for related story: Rick Scott rides TV ads, ‘21st century campaign’ to GOP lead for Florida governor

Click here for related story: Florida, Collier GOP leaders neutral as attacks escalate on Rick Scott, McCollum

Click here for related story: McCollum wants to debate Rick Scott; Mitt Romney endorses in governor race

Click here for related story: POLL: Rick Scott challenges Bill McCollum to four debates in Florida GOP governor's race

Click here for Daily News' initial report on Rick Scott's campaign for governor, HCA and his background

Click here for a Q&A with the Daily News and Rick Scott

__ Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/

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