TAMPA — Politics is funny sometimes in Florida.
One day people call you a fraud who ripped off taxpayers and financed smut, the next day they hail you as a visionary leader, job creator and good friend. One day you're denouncing special interest and lobbyist money, the next day you are courting it.
Such is the case with Rick Scott, the mega-rich businessman who stunned the GOP establishment last week by beating Bill McCollum for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Only a week ago, state and national party leaders treated Scott as a dangerous pariah, but now they're eagerly embracing him and hoping for forgiveness.
"Rick articulated a common sense, pro-jobs, conservative message, and that resonated with voters big time. . . . He has our full support," said House speaker-designate Dean Cannon, who along with Senate president-designate Mike Haridopolos, funneled more than a million dollars to bankroll TV ads basically depicting Scott as a crook.
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Watching the passel of legislators fawn over Scott at a finance meeting Monday at the University Club in Tampa, it was clear that Mr. Outsider is on the verge of being the kingpin of insiders.
After criticizing McCollum for having Tallahassee insiders and special interests bankroll his campaign, Scott is now beckoning lobbyists for contributions and schmoozing with legislative leaders and "Tallahassee insiders" he used to scorn.
"Politicians are politicians," chuckled Gayle Cooper, a retired flight instructor who was impressed by Scott during a recent campaign stop. "They keep saying, 'I'm an outsider,' but five minutes after they're elected, they're not. They're insiders."
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