Rick Scott’s pitch to Florida Hispanics: Kitchen table issues with a side of Latin America

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Hispanic voters have the same concerns as the general public and are paying more attention to the situation in Latin America.

“[Hispanics] Generally care about the same things as everyone else. But they also cherish Latin American democracy and freedom. So they care about jobs, they care about education, they care about law enforcement, but they care about that, too,” Scott told The Hill.

That view is central to Scott's re-election campaign approach in Florida, where a quarter of the population is Hispanic.

“When I run ads with my campaign, I usually run ads in English and Spanish. If I’m doing an event, I’m doing an event in the Panhandle or something, and I’m also doing an event in Miami at the same time. Or, if I'm in Tampa, I might do an event with the Chamber of Commerce. [of Commerce]and then we do that with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” he said.

“That's why I've always reached out to everyone, because I represent everyone.”

This approach contrasts with mainstream thinking in national campaigns focused on Hispanics. There, apples-to-apples bilingual support efforts are gradually being replaced by messages tailored to individual cultural subsets.

Scott's more traditional approach responds in part to Florida's large and diverse Hispanic groups.

“The way Hispanics are in Florida. We have Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans. They're all different communities, but it's a good melting pot, but I want to help each of them individually. We're reaching out and doing something together.'' Every group. I never stopped talking to them,” Scott said.

His confident approach, which has won him three consecutive statewide elections, also relies on his service to his constituents, which earned him the Congressional Management Foundation's Democracy Award in 2022.

“I've achieved my record, so you know, I'm going to continue working with great peace of mind. And you know, my resident services team won the highest resident service award. “This is the country's team,'' Scott said.

But Scott's statewide victory was not by a wide margin. He won the gubernatorial election in 2010 by a margin of about 1.2 percentage points, was re-elected in 2014 by a margin of 1 percentage point, and won a Senate seat in 2018 by defeating then-incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. . (D) The difference is less than two-tenths of a percentage point from him. That's a difference of about 10,000 votes out of more than 8 million votes cast.

And Scott, along with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, is the closest thing Republicans have to a fragile 2024 incumbent. The Cook Political Report ranks both senators' races as “likely Republican” rather than “solid Republican.” ” Rankings for nine other Republican-held seats are updated.

Scott is also facing his Republican primary opponent, Keith Gross, who has promised massive spending to unseat the incumbent, but as of September, Gross He spent just under $1 million, compared to the $12 million Scott has already spent in the 2024 cycle.

Throughout his political career, Scott has successfully fended off attacks on the source of his wealth. The settlement was reached in 2003 after a complex fraud case involving his company Columbia HCA, once the country's largest healthcare company.

These attacks continued in the Republican primary, including from Democratic front-runners, including former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida, who called the events that led to the settlement “the biggest Medicare fraud in Republican history.” It continues from the challenger on the other side. history of this country. ”

Ecuadorian-born Mucarsel-Powell is a full-court reporter for a Hispanic media outlet in Florida and does Spanish-language interviews almost daily on an influential radio station, hoping to outsmart Scott with her cultural competency and Spanish fluency. is answering.

“The problem she has is not the language she speaks, but her position,” Scott said.

The line of attack in the general election is likely to be between Scott and Mucarsel-Powell, and is forming along predictable fronts.

“She's running around with people who are anti-police. I don't know any Hispanic people who are anti-police. She's basically running around with people who are anti-Israel. With Hispanics. “In my experience with Hispanics, they're not anti-Israel. They're basically socialists. My experience with Hispanics is they're not socialists,” Scott said.

Mucarsel-Powell, on the other hand, has attacked Scott as a political extremist for his support of former President Trump, and views Scott as an authoritarian strongman in Latin America.

However, both candidates agree that it is important for legislators to understand the politics of the Western Hemisphere among Florida's Hispanic residents.

“When it comes to Cubans, they care about freedom and democracy in Cuba in general, or what do they care about when it comes to Venezuelans? [President Nicolás] What is Maduro doing? What are Nicaraguans doing? What do they care about? [President Daniel] What are Ortega doing, or if they are Colombian, what do they care about? [President Gustavo] What does Petro do or what do they care about if they are Argentinians? [President Javier] Miley is doing it,” Scott said.

U.S. citizens of Latin American and Caribbean descent are a particularly strong voting group in South Florida, while Puerto Ricans in central Florida have changed the state's political dynamics.

Puerto Ricans become legal U.S. citizens if they are born in the territory, so even recent arrivals from the island are eligible to vote. In 2019, Florida became the state with the largest Puerto Rican diaspora, now home to more than 1 million people.

As with Hispanics with roots outside the U.S., Scott is pitching table issues to Puerto Ricans, but he's also pushing the Republican mainstream on an issue with particular support among Florida's Puerto Rican community: statehood. There is a divergence (albeit with caution) from the sect.

“First of all, what they want to do is they want to take care of their families. Second, they care about their future, their children, so they care about education. And the other thing is, the crime rate. We want to lower it.”

“It's important to talk about issues and address issues that affect Puerto Ricans, and I think Puerto Rico will eventually become a nation, and I acknowledge that.” They need to get their finances in order. I think so, and whether everyone agrees with me here or not, I have a vote. ”

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