* Stagnant number a setback for Republican leader
* Florida continues to lag other states in recovery
* Recent report says Florida leads in long-term unemployment
By Michael Peltier
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Sept 21 (Reuters) - Florida's unemployment rate held at 8.8 percent for a second consecutive month in August, authorities said on Friday, in a report dealing a new blow to Republican Governor Rick Scott.
Scott, who has spent the past several months touting his state's economic recovery, highlighted the 28,000 new jobs created in August. Florida's jobless level, however, continues to lag behind the rest of the nation which saw the unemployment rate in August fall to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July.
"This increase in new jobs is proving that the decisions we're making here in Florida are pointing our state in the right direction," Scott said in a statement.
The governor's oft repeated claim that Florida is leading the nation in job growth is being challenged by data that indicates Florida's recovery is far from seamless.
Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, says Scott and President Barack Obama both made bold promises during their campaigns that may be hard to deliver.
"They both may have painted themselves into a corner," MacManus said.
The state's unemployment rate, until recent months, had been dropping faster than the national average. Other indicators tell another story about the state's jobs market.
Last month the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research released an analysis that attributed a large portion of Florida's falling unemployment rate - about 70 percent - to a reduction in the labor force and not to people getting back to work.
A recent study by Florida International University reported that Florida led the nation in the number of long-term unemployed in 2011, with more than half of jobless workers still looking for work after six months compared to just under 44 percent nationwide.
Such economic dissonance spilled over earlier this week as Scott bristled when pressed on the numbers by reporters, cutting off a series of questions on the apparent disconnect between his message and the less encouraging economic indicators.
Scott campaigned for office in 2010 almost exclusively on economic development, and calls himself the "Jobs Governor".
He pledged to create 700,000 private sector jobs in Florida over seven years, in addition to the estimated 1 million new jobs that were expected to be created "naturally" by population growth.
That earlier promise was redefined shortly after Scott took office, with the governor saying the 700,000 goal included all jobs. Asked this week if he would make that goal, Scott was unequivocal.
"Absolutely, no question," Scott said.
His hopes of reducing the unemployment rate have been thwarted in part due to Scott's own effort to shrink the state bureaucracy. Government employment fell by 5,300 in August.
Other newly released data paint a bleak picture. On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report that median income in Florida dropped 2.9 percent in 2011. The state's median income fell to $44,299 in 2011 from $45,609 in 2010, according the Census' American Community Survey. The national median income was $50,502.
The survey also found that 17.3 percent - about one-in-six - Floridians were living below the poverty level, about $23,000 for a family of four. That's up from 16.5 percent in 2010. National poverty rates also went up. Both state and national rates have climbed for the past four years.
Rudy Giuliani And The Price Of Milk
While running for president in 2007, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani <a href="http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/news_theswamp/2007/04/giulianis_price.html">told</a> a reporter at a Montgomery, Ala., supermarket that he estimates "a gallon of milk is probably about a $1.50, a loaf of bread about a $1.25, $1.30, last time I bought one." It must have been a few election cycles since his last trip: The grocery store's website listed milk for $3.38 and bread up to $3.49.
Dan Quayle And Single Mothers
During George H.W. Bush's reelection campaign in 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle <a href="http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19920521&id=b1tWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NfADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6921,388223" target="_hplink">scoffed</a> at the "Murphy Brown situation," referring to a television character who had a child out of wedlock. Quayle called the Brown story "totally unreal," adding, "A highly paid professional woman [with a baby] ... give me a break."
Martha Coakley And Shaking Hands
In a display of aloofness that many political observers say led to her defeat by Republican Scott Brown, Democratic Senate candidate and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley erred in <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0110/Coakley_not_sweating_it.html" target="_hplink">brushing off</a> the idea of ramping up her campaigning. When asked whether she was being too apathetic, she referenced one of Brown's ads and fired back, "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?"
Spiro Agnew And Poor Neighborhoods
Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, branded as Richard Nixon's go-to guy on cities, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/18/us/spiro-t-agnew-ex-vice-president-dies-at-77.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm" target="_hplink">vowed</a> in 1968 to avoid poor neighborhoods. "If you've seen one slum, you've seen them all," Agnew said.
Gerald Ford And Tamales
While visiting the Alamo in 1976, President Gerald Ford <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/No-one-told-Ford-tamales-need-to-be-unwrapped-1536700.php" target="_hplink">bit</a> into a tamale through the husk, a faux pas later deemed the "Great Tamales Incident."
George H.W. Bush And Grocery Scanners
President George H.W. Bush caught flak for <a href="http://www.snopes.com/history/american/bushscan.asp" target="_hplink">appearing awed</a> by a supermarket check-out scanner while touring a grocers convention in 1992. It turned out the president was being shown a new bar code technology, and the convention worker who was alongside Bush later said it's "foolish to think the president doesn't know anything about grocery stores. He knew exactly what I was talking about."
George W. Bush And Gas Prices
In 2008, President George W. Bush <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/business/worldbusiness/03iht-assess.4.11654214.html?_r=1" target="_hplink">said</a> he had not heard predictions that gas prices could soon hit $4 a gallon. At the time, the national average was $3.29 a gallon.
John Kerry And Cheese Steak
In 2003, Democratic presidential contender John Kerry <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/battle10/244119/bloombergs-john-kerry-cheesesteak-moment-thomas-shakely#" target="_hplink">ordered</a> Swiss cheese on a cheese steak while campaigning in South Philadelphia, straying from the traditional favorite topping, Cheez Whiz.
Michael Dukakis And The Tank
Democratic presidential contender Michael Dukakis <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/01/17/the-photo-op-that-tanked" target="_hplink">tried</a> to one-up Republican opponent George H.W. Bush on national defense by striking a pose in an M1 Abrams tank.
Mitt Romney And Wawa
Mitt Romney has had his fair share of seemingly out-of-touch statements this election cycle, admitting he likes to "fire people" and <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/mitt-romney-sandwich-computer-wawa/story?id=16587170#.T-Ca3XBfaUc" target="_hplink">expressing amazement</a> at the touchscreen ordering system at convenience store Wawa.
Barack Obama And The Private Sector
President Barack Obama is not exempt from the "gotcha" moment. In June, he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/obama-doing-fine-private-sector_n_1581874.html" target="_hplink">described</a> the private sector economy as "doing fine." The gaffe immediately elicited comparisons with his 2008 Republican opponent, John McCain, who said that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" in the midst of a crippling financial crisis.