Florida Gov. Rick Scott assessed in an interview on Tuesday that his longtime friend President Trump is on track but still finding his way, describing him as optimistic, determined and methodically figuring out what he needs to do to be successful.
Scott has been meeting with Trump privately and as part of the governors' annual gathering in Washington. He spoke to editors and reporters at the Washington Examiner's newsroom in Washington just hours before Trump was to address the nation before a joint session of Congress. The wealthy former hospital executive was an early supporter of Trump in the 2016 campaign, and the two have spent considerable time since the election discussing healthcare reform, among other issues.
Scott on Tuesday described Trump as remarkably "inquisitive," claiming his eagerness to ask questions is a natural extension of the decades he spent running a multi-billion dollar business empire across a variety of industries. But he warned against taking the president's curiosity to mean he doesn't fully understand the complexities of government.
"I think the longer you're in office, you learn how the process works and you have more people that you can rely on," he said. "You don't say you're not going to do anything until you know every nuance because the truth is, nothing would ever happen."
The two-term Republican governor, who confirmed that he continues to consider a run for Senate in 2018 but has put no timetable on any announcement, said his recent conversations with Trump didn't yield information on the principles guiding the president's approach to repealing and replacing Obamacare.
But the governor said that Trump, a real estate developer and entertainer before entering politics, was doing what all good businessmen do: asking questions and gathering information so that he can figure out how to fulfill the promises he made during the campaign.
"He's an individual that's trying to figure this out," Scott said. "I mean every time I'm around him he's asking questions."
Trump has been at times cryptic and contradictory about what route he wants healthcare reform to take. At times, he has sounded like a Democrat, offering guarantees that expanded insurance coverage levels under the Affordable Care Act would not be impacted by the Republican overhaul.
In private, too, Scott said the president has declined to commit to specifics on health care and Medicaid reform.
"They didn't make a commitment to me exactly on how they're going to [reform the Medicaid system]," he told the Examiner. "When I meet with President Trump it's more that he's asking me questions, and I'm giving him what I believe."
Lawmakers have anxiously awaited Trump's prime-time address to a joint session of Congress, his first formal speech to a national audience since he was sworn in Jan. 20. They're hoping the president begins to offer policy details and signal how he plans to fulfill campaign promises involving healthcare, immigration, taxes and other issues.
"I think he's going to talk about how he's going to try to get the economy going," Scott said. "I think he'll talk about what he's going to do with healthcare. You know, everybody from the House and the Senate and the White House, they're still working on it."
Trump has taken heat during his first 40 days in office for a governing style that has at times been chaotic and controversial.
"I saw him two weeks ago — at MacDill Air Force Base, he did a military event down there and so I just sat down with him one-on-one," Scott said. "He's upbeat. I don't think he's really changed from the campaign … He's like a business person in that, 'this is what I'm trying to do,' and he's surrounded himself with people that are doers."