Rookies Preferred

Rookies Preferred

It’s not a good year for veteran politicians, even conservative ones.

By Kenneth Y. Tomlinson
The Weekly Standard

Before wealthy businessman Rick Scott took to the airwaves in the spring, Attorney General Bill McCollum appeared to be well on his way to the Florida governor’s mansion.

“So how come things in government never change for the better?” asked the plainspoken Scott. “Maybe it’s because we never change the kind of people we send to government. We need a conservative outsider to hold government accountable.”

In time Scott’s ads became very specific about his view of McCollum’s 30-year political legacy:

Forty-five percent of [Florida] home-owners owe more than their homes are worth. How’d it happen?

Congress made the mess—loosened regulations, pushed banks to make risky loans.

Congressman Bill McCollum? He voted yes.

So the mortgage industry made McCollum a high-paid lobbyist.

This is no Barney Frank liberal that Scott is savaging. McCollum has spent a lifetime in and around America’s conservative movement.

Endorsing McCollum last week, Dick Armey, former House GOP leader, declared his friend was “tea party” long before there were tea parties. The high point of McCollum’s 20-year congressional career was his service at Henry Hyde’s right-hand in the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

One of Washington’s leading conservative figures, explaining his support for McCollum, says their relationship goes back to the ’60s when McCollum was a conservative political activist at the University of Florida. Indeed, when McCollum appeared recently in Washington at a weekly luncheon of conservative leaders, he was given the warm greeting of an old friend returning home.

But back in Florida, McCollum is in trouble. And if his life as a career politician isn’t enough of a problem, McCollum has managed to get himself into a real mess over the Arizona immigration law. Activists say the most effective of the Scott ads features McCollum’s voice declaring, “We don’t need that law in Florida. That’s not going to happen here.” Scott then declares the Arizona law nothing but “common sense.”

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