By Jim Bleyer
Bill Nelson’s campaign for a fourth term in the U. S. senate is off to a rocky start.
Democratic operatives are duplicating failed strategies of the past, strategies that grow more ineffective with the passage of time.
The 2010 gubernatorial campaign pitted Florida’s CFO Alex Sink against Rick Scott, then a political unknown. Initially favored, Sink went on the offensive and failed miserably. In 2014, Charlie Crist incomprehensively duplicated Sink’s attacks against Scott, an extremely vulnerable incumbent, and failed.
U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson, with Scott looming as his Republican opponent, is falling into the same trap: carping on Scott’s documented Medicare fraud when he was chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA.
But, in political terms, that’s ancient history. Voters elected Scott in 2010, fully aware of his misadventures including invoking the fifth amendment 75 times in 2000. That was three years after investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services raided Columbia/HCA facilities.
Nelson and the national Democratic party cannot afford to squander valuable resources on attack ads about Scott’s Medicare fraud. Now 21 years after the FBI raid, the issue failed to resonate sufficiently in 2010 and 2014. Why would that change in 2018?
Scott with help from his buddies, the Koch brothers, will outspend Nelson. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-inspired PAC, has successfully fit Wisconsin and Florida into their corporate-fascist template. Scott and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker have been AFP’s most willing puppets.
Parenthetically, Columbia/HCA pleaded guilty to 14 felonies and agreed to a $600+ million fine in the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history. Columbia/HCA admitted systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about use of hospital space.
None of that matters now. The issue is Rick Scott’s non-accomplishments as governor. Scott’s team has been very adept at portraying him as a real leader responsible for significant job growth in Florida.
Worse, the state’s media has bought into the propaganda. Scott is riding high in poll numbers and likeability. It’s up to the Nelson campaign team to shine a light on Scott’s self-serving errant ways as governor.
There’s a ton of fodder there and that should be the game plan, not the impotent Medicare fraud approach.
Nelson, the only Democratic statewide elected official in Florida, has his work cut out for him. Scott could borrow Lou Gehrig’s famous line and consider himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”