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Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is facing his toughest re-election challenge in over a decade as he prepares to face Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) this November, and the stress is causing his campaign to make desperate moves. In the latest misstep, Nelson’s campaign sent out an email that attempted to attack Scott but only served to highlight one of his main strengths.

Scott was in Israel yesterday along with other U.S. officials as the American embassy was dedicated at its new location in Jerusalem, and posted several tweets from his visit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu singled out Scott for special recognition among the American elected representatives.

Nelson chose to respond to this by accusing Scott of neglecting Florida, pointing to a potential tropical storm that is developing in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rick Scott is in Israel instead of minding the store at home,” Nelson said in a campaign email, according to the Sun Sentinel.

“With a threat swirling in the Gulf, Rick Scott is using taxpayer dollars to promote his campaign, proving once again, he has abandoned his job as governor,” continued the email. “Per usual, Rick Scott is putting himself and his political career over the interests and safety of Floridians.”

According to the National Hurricane Center, this particular system has only a 30 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next five days. Scott would be back home in Florida well before then.

The suggestion that Scott was “abandoning” or “neglecting” Florida is, of course, laughable. Nelson’s been in elected office since 1972, so he may have missed a few technological advances, but thanks to exciting inventions known as “The Internet” and “The Telephone,” Scott has the ability to stay up-to-date on weather developments from anywhere around the globe.

And he did just that, posting a series of tweets over the past few days with updates from the NHC and Florida’s State Emergency Response Team.

Scott’s office also issued a statement yesterday afternoon that the Florida Division of Emergency Management had briefed Scott on the latest developments, and that the governor had directed FDEM “to be in constant communication with counties regarding the weather system.”

“In Florida, we know how to prepare for storms, and even though hurricane season hasn’t begun, we should never let our guard down,” said Scott. “It’s encouraging to know that the National Hurricane Center doesn’t expect this system to become a tropical storm, but we should never underestimate the potential impact of severe weather.”

“We know how to prepare for storms,” indeed.

Scott won accolades for his handling of the last year’s hurricanes — from even Democrats and a skeptical Florida political press.

For years, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) has been viewed as the gold standard for handling hurricanes, after expertly navigating the state through four major hurricanes in 2004 — including some that made multiple landfalls in Florida — followed by additional serious hurricanes in 2005, and many wondered if Scott would be able to meet that test. By all objective measures, he did.

Throughout the preparation for Hurricane Irma, during the storm, and its aftermath, Scott was a constant and reassuring presence on Florida television channels, in his Navy cap and button down shirt, surrounded by state and local officials providing updates and instructions that unquestionably reduced the loss of life. His office has also been actively seeking to assist Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria, especially those who have relocated, temporarily or more permanently, to the Sunshine State.

In fact, a poll taken last October showed very high marks for Scott regarding his Hurricane Irma leadership. Out of 625 registered voters selected statewide, 35 percent rated his performance as “excellent,” 31 percent as “good,” 25 percent as “fair,” only 4 percent said “poor,” and 5 percent were not sure.

Scott received an excellent or good rating from 89 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of Independents, and even 49 percent of Democrats. The margin of error for the poll was +/- 4 points, so even the Democrats’ numbers are likely to be in the positive range.

Nelson’s awkward attack on Scott only serves to remind Floridians of that image of their governor in his Navy cap, competently handling a potentially catastrophic storm.

Perhaps for Nelson’s next email, he could complain about job creation?

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker

Update: This article originally said that the NHC had predicted the low pressure system had only a 30 percent chance of developing into a tropical storm. It is actually a 30 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression, which is even less severe than a tropical storm. The text has been updated above.

 

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