On the bus with Rick Scott: Campaign hits final stretch as Election Day looms

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Energized by arguably his best debate performance yet on Monday night, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott kicked off a bus tour this morning that will take him across the state until Election Day in exactly one week.

The tour kicked off at the Brew City Bar and Grill in New Port Richey, where over 200 die-hard supporters turned out to see Scott and his running mate, Jennifer Carroll. The candidates shook hands as patrons munched on waffles, yogurt and coffee.

“We are going to win and then the state will be open for business,” Scott told the cheering crowd.

“We are going to change the state,” Scott said. “We won the debate last night. It's a clear choice.”

Jim Mertes, 74, a retired builder and military man, has been supporting Scott since he entered the race last spring. Mertes said he believes Scott's business experience will help him turn the state around.

But Mertes was less impressed about Monday night's debate between Scott and his Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, which aired nationwide on CNN.

“I didn't give either one of them a whole lot of credit last night,” Mertes said. “They didn't talk about the issues. They talked about running each other down. I'm tired of the character assassination.”

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Scott is riding around the state in a luxury bus emblazoned with red, white and blue stars and stripes, his and Carroll's names, and his slogan “Let's Get to Work.” Prior to the Brew City breakfast, Scott and Carroll chatted on the bus with reporters and with anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who is campaigning with Scott today.

The second stop on the tour was a retirement community in Hernando County where hundreds of more supporters waited to shake hands with Scott and Carroll.

Jerry Lebo, 71, and Richard Shipp, 79, both originally supported Scott's opponent in the Republican primary, Bill McCollum, but said they are warming up to Scott.

“I'm growing. I'm surely growing to Rick Scott,” Shipp said. “It's been a process with all the mud-slinging. You have to go in and find the real facts.”

Lebo said he was happy to see that McCollum finally threw his support behind Scott early Friday evening.

“I was very disappointed in him that he didn't immediately, or in a short time, come out and support Scott,” Lebo said.

Scott's itinerary today takes him to a Citrus County barbecue lunch, the Villages, and a Martin County Republican Party rally.

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