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COLUMN

Happy New Year, Gov. Rick Scott

Governor rings in 2013 with dismal poll numbers

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With auld acquaintance duly forgotten – along with just about everything else lodged in our big Happytown™ brain, thanks to the whiplash of a particularly celebratory holiday patch – we're now facing the new year down like a blank slate of awesome. Except, as with most mornings after and their requisite pills, we can't really do that quite as easily as we can say it. Neither can Gov. Rick Scott.

On Dec. 19, Scott was smacked with the latest round of dismal poll numbers, just as he was adamantly trying to create some delusional narrative about how awesome he is and why he should be reelected next year. A Quinnipiac University poll found that, even among GOP voters, good ol' Skeletor gets no love. Fifty-two percent of polled Republicans said they would prefer somebody (anybody) else to Scott in a gubernatorial primary. That number directly mirrors the 52 percent of all Floridians who want the man to disappear in 2014.

"The numbers cannot be sugar-coated," pollster Peter A. Brown, who is the assistant director of Quinnipiac's polling arm, said in a press release, according to the Palm Beach Post. "When voters in a politician's own party want him to be challenged in a primary by another candidate, it's difficult to see it as anything but outright rejection."

Scott's been making sad news all over the place lately, stuttering his way through television appearances with the sort of patented discomfort that has become his calling card. In the wake of last month's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Scott was dressed down by CNN's Soledad O'Brien for his blank stares and muttered NRA talking points on gun control. In lieu of offering any legislative grist, Scott spit out a leap of logic that sounded uncomfortably like a campaign stump. "I believe in the Second Amendment," he said. "But look, what I want to focus on right now is the families, make sure our schools are safe – in our state we're at a 41-year low in our crime rate. But I think whenever anything happens likes this, let's just step back and say, 'What can we improve?'"

Yep, just step back and say it – because so far you've improved nothing.

Guns aren't even close to being Scott's only political nightmare for the new year, though; that list grows daily. The Tampa Bay Times handed Scott an investigative sack of coal on Christmas Day, this time focusing on how he has almost single-handedly rendered the state's Department of Environmental Protection a worthless joke by replacing its trained regulators with industry leaders. And Scott's will-he-won't-he debate over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Scott is scheduled to meet with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius next month and say what, exactly?) has veered into comedic territory. Even his trusty legislative leadership seems to be getting sick of this evasive routine. A Christmas New York Times story quotes Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, inadvertently chastising those who (like Scott) are hanging onto this notion of avoiding the ACA for being downright "kooky." "We're not a banana republic," Gaetz said, adding that it is "dangerous to the foundation of the republic when we pick and choose which laws we will obey." Oh, dear.

How's that hangover, Rick?

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