Just a few short weeks ago, Speaker Weatherford was seen as new kind of Republican Legislative leader: young, energetic, consensus oriented and soft spoken. What a difference a month makes. From his public snafus to his fire breathing speech at CPAC and his rejection of medicaid expansion, the Speaker has become a conservative hero.
Tonight on Fox News, Stephen Hayes, the well respected conservative columnist for the Weekly Standard named Weatherford his “winner of the week,” for his rejection of Governor Scott’s “capitulation” on medicaid. Hayes for those of you who are not aware of him, has been hand selected as the author of Dick Cheney’s office biography. Hayes, a hardcore neoconservative brought Weatherford up against the prevailing theme of the show which was North Korea and nuclear threats. This continues a pattern where Weatherford’s name has come up in the past few weeks on conservative websites and in the right leaning press as a young rising star nationally.
I wrote last month that perhaps the expectations of many, myself included were too high for the Speaker. But now I am now beginning to think Weatherford has played us all adroitly playing consensus builder while positioning himself smartly with conservative opinion leaders nationally. Weatherford is getting more national attention from the right than Marco Rubio did at the same point during his Speakership.
Elite conservative disappointment with Rick Scott has also played into Weatherford’s hands as he is seen as true believer fighting a rogue Governor who is more concerned about re-election than political principles.
It will be interesting to watch Weatherford in the next 13 months. He’s gaining a national profile which is unusual for a Florida legislative leader and the opportunity to parlay this into greater fame and higher political office will certainly be possible if he plays his cards right.