FORT LAUDERDALE -- Six months after Republicans suffered big elections defeats, and 18 months before his own fate is in the hands of the voters, Gov. Rick Scott sought to energize Republican activists and donors Monday night with a call to evangelize on behalf of the party's pro-business, small government message.
"We should be winning every race," Scott told about 300 people at the Broward Republican Party's biggest annual fundraiser, the Lincoln Day Dinner. "This is ours to lose. We cannot be losing the races. 2014 is going to happen very quickly."
He noted his own re-election will be decided in 528 days, but said the stakes are much higher than just his own political career. "Who wins the governor's race has a dramatic impact on 2016," Scott said.
The way to do that, Scott said, is for Republicans to explain to everyone else why they should vote Republican. "We are Republicans because we have lived the life, we grew up in a country, where anything could be possible," he said. "You can do anything you want in this country. Everyone in this room has their own American success story."
"Here's our problem," Scott said. "We don't tell people why we are Republicans, why they should be Republicans, why it's in their best interest. There is nobody who shouldn't be a Republican.... It's our fault that we don't tell everybody the facts."
Scott said that means business owners should be telling their employees why taxes and regulations are killing their jobs.
Most of Scott's speech was the standard address he delivers to all sorts of groups, with the few political extras that he doesn't use during official gubernatorial remarks.
He contrasted the state's improving budget picture and job growth with the declines that took place during the years before he took office. He said the state's economy has improved sicne the state has implemented "Republican conservative principles."
Even though Scott was the keynote speaker, other speakers were more strongly partisan. County Commissioner Chip LaMarca warned Republicans that "we're up against a [Democratic political] machine that makes it acceptable for the Internal Revenue Service to target us."
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who represents part of South Broward, said in a video presentation that the country has "a president, an administration, that's clueless as to what's going on."
And it was state Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, who brought up the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Party leaders didn't have an estimate on what they raised Monday night, but based on attendance and ticket prices -- $150 general admission and $300 for VIP reception -- the event would have taken in $75,000. ___