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Who is Florida's Rick Scott?

By Ed Hornick, CNN
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Florida's 'anti-establishment' winner
  • John King interviews Rick Scott on "John King, USA" on CNN at 7 p.m. ET
  • Scott won Florida Republican gubernatorial primary against Bill McCollum
  • Scott used about $50 million of his own fortune in the race
  • Republicans were upset at the tone and negativity in the race

(CNN) -- Rick Scott has the money and the drive, and he can't be challenged when he calls himself an outsider in a year when anti-establishment sentiment is high.

That paid off Tuesday, when the millionaire businessman won his party's nomination for governor. He beat state Attorney General Bill McCollum, who was backed by state and national establishment Republicans.

Scott, a former health care executive, used nearly $50 million of his own money in his campaign -- something his opponent and other Republicans came down hard on.

"No one could have anticipated the entrance of a multimillionaire with a questionable past who shattered campaign spending records and spent more in four months than has ever been spent in a primary race here in Florida," McCollum said in a news release Tuesday night.

In an interview with CNN's "John King USA" on Wednesday, Scott said that there was no limit on how much of his own money he would spend in the upcoming election.

He also fought back at the criticism over his wealth, saying he has lived the American dream.

"I grew up in public housing, was in the Navy, started my first business when I was 21," the 57-year-old said. "I've absolutely lived the American dream. I want that same dream for every Floridian."

The career of Bloomington, Illinois-born Scott has gone from practicing law to founding two health care providers: Columbia Hospital Corporation and Solantic Corporation.

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He also started Conservatives for Patients' Rights, "an organization founded to defend free market principles in health care that focused successfully on defeating President Obama's government-run public option plan," according to his website.

Scott ran into some trouble, though, when the federal government fined Columbia/HCA $1.7 billion for alleged fraud.

Scott responded that "my opponent said that in the primary, and he lost," adding that when you're in business and things go wrong, "you should take responsibility as the CEO. I do."

During his primary campaign, Scott, 57, focused on his experience in the private sector and his plan for creating jobs. But his campaign was often accused of taking cheap shots at his opponent.

In mid-August, Scott released an ad tying McCollum to Jim Greer, the disgraced former chairman of the state's Republican Party. "Party boss Jim Greer -- arrested for money laundering," the ad said. "And who backed Jim Greer's effort to hide financial irregularities? Bill McCollum."

The Republican Governors Association condemned Scott's ad and called for him to "pull this ad and move forward in the primary in a constructive manner."

Despite the controversy, Scott is looking forward to his general election campaign against Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer.

"This race is about jobs. ... What I'm going to campaign on is what I campaigned on in the primary: It's about jobs," he said. "I'm going to build jobs. I have a specific plan to build 700,000 jobs over the next seven years."

Chris Good, a political observer for The Atlantic, said that all the bitterness from the primary race may have taken a toll on Scott's image going into the general election. He cited a recent Mason-Dixon poll showing Sink leading Scott by a margin of 40 percent to 24 percent.

Despite a tough primary battle and the poll numbers, Scott has one thing that could sway the election.

"In some ways, Scott's general-election story is similar to Linda McMahon's in Connecticut: He's a candidate vulnerable to attacks, but his vast personal wealth still makes him intimidating to Democrats," Good wrote. "If the polling and Scott's money are any indication, the Florida governor's race will be close."

CNN's Jeff Simon contributed to this report.