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Could Ann Scott Give The Governor A Much-Needed Image Boost?

Since he was elected two years ago Governor Rick Scott has adjusted to life in the public eye. What started as a tense relationship with the media has become more relaxed and Scott has even reached out to some of his most vocal critics-- teachers and their union. But as Scott gears up for his re-election bid, a new poll shows his efforts at appealing to the masses isn’t working.

The governor's latest approval rating shows Floridians still aren’t fans. In fact, in the two years Scott has been in office his approval rating, at just 36 percent, hasn’t changed much.

“These numbers are really not good. These are pretty awful for the governor," said Peter Brown, Assistant Director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute which did the survey.

Peter said despite the governor’s efforts -- such as revamping his communications team, softening his rhetoric on teachers and the union and trying to put forth a softer, nicer image -- people just don’t like him:

“It appears to be more personal than anything else. Some politicians really click with voters, some don’t. These numbers indicate Mr. Scott’s problems are as much a personal as a policy question with voters.”   

The governor’s re-election bid could also be in trouble.  The same poll shows more than half of Republican voters want someone to challenge Scott in a primary in 2014.  To make matters worse, former Governor Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, has a 47 percent approval rating with a majority of Democrats and Independents saying they like him.

But Scott does have some things going for him. The governor has continued to keep his focus on getting more jobs to the state. The economy is improving, although according to the poll, voters are giving more credit to the President of the United States, than to the Governor of Florida. But there’s one person that could help him out with voters: Florida’s first Lady, Ann Scott.


Could Ann Scott Be The Governor's Image Booster?

It’s a cloudy cold day in Tallahassee and a small group of elementary school kids make their way into the Governor’s mansion. The soft blue walls are glowing with light from the decorated Christmas tree nestled in a corner. And here is where the kids are greeted by Florida’s first Lady Ann Scott for a holiday tour:

She guides them around the Governor's mansion, and into the dining room, with its opulent crystal chandelier, walls decorated with Florida flora and fauna and antique silver. One of the biggest draws is the stately silver punch bowl adorned with pelican handles and inscribed with a scene from the state's early history.

The bowl is 100 years old and was part of a military submarine.

During the last two years Florida’s first lady has focused her attention on children’s literacy issues. She’s also mostly shied away from the public spotlight, doing few interviews and preferring to stay behind the scenes.

“I was terrified of public speaking, and that lasted all of 30 days and then they set me off on the campaign trail. And I was still nervous, you know, being in the public eye, it’s something you have to get used to and work on," said Mrs. Scott.

The first lady says she’s getting better at public speaking, but  still gets nervous at times. But when Governor Scott hits the campaign trail again, she’ll be right there with him.

“I will support my husband in any way possible and I look forward to meeting all the people around Florida again. We have such warm and wonderful, friendly people who care a lot about our great state," she said.

When the Governor ran for election back in 2010 his mother, Esther Scott was highly visible on TV ads touting her son as a quote, “good boy.” Observers say her role helped soften the governor’s image.  Esther Scott died last month but some say Florida’s first lady could help fill that role in what’s expected to be a tough re-election bid for the Governor.

“There is perhaps the idea that the Governor’s image is a little harsh, and by putting a softer image on to remind people that he is loved by his wife and that he’s a good family man, that certainly can’t hurt," said Carol Weissert, a political scientist at Florida State University.  

But Weissert adds its not likely the first lady can help that much.

“There’s no evidence that people do anything when people go into the voting booth to vote. They’re not going to say, 'oh I really like the first lady', they’re going to say 'how well did the governor meet my expectations'," she said.

While the governor remains mired in low approval ratings, he still has some supporters. Take Alan Laired. He owns AJ’s Seafood and Oyster bar in Destin.

“As far as politicians, the Governor of the state of Florida, I think he’s got the aggressive nature of pro-business. You take somebody like him, and I think he’s one of the better Governor’s we’ve had in a while, so...God Bless You Governor," Laired said.

Governor Scott may need a lot more Alan Laired’s come 2014. The field of potential Democratic challengers is getting crowded with State Senator Nan Rich already planning a run, and former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer considering their own bids.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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