Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Outtakes—Against All Odds

This past weekend, I was invited to attend a reunion celebration of the 20th anniversary of Joe Scarborough’s first campaign for Congress. Scarborough and his team did something that we rarely see in our lifetimes. They changed the course of politics not only in Northwest Florida, but also the entire state.

In 1994, Bill Clinton was president, Lawton Chiles was governor and our congressman was Earl Hutto. They were all Democrats, as were all the constitutional officers in Escambia County.

That was just the way it was until this unknown lawyer, who was only 30, decided to run for Congress. His family thought he was crazy. He had no chance and no money.

Scarborough spent what little money he had on yard signs and BLAB TV shows. He preached small government and railed against Clinton’s tax increase and health plan. Few from the local political establishment paid any attention, but others like Nan Weaver and Tom Sullivan did, and the campaign added volunteers steadily. Yard signs began popping up from Perdido Key to Panama City.

The voters were frustrated, much like the Tea Party would be 18 years later during Barack Obama’s first term. Scarborough spoke to them and they believed he could make a difference in Washington.

Scarborough also spoke to religious conservatives, a group that no candidate had seriously pursued until then. A Southern Baptist, he understood their culture and concerns. They quickly saw him as their candidate. Six years later, Texas Governor George W. Bush used the same voter base to win the White House.

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