Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

GOP Senate Primary Starting To Heat Up

With today the last day of fundraising for the 1st quarter reporting of the US Senate race, the Republican primary is starting to look interesting.  Incumbent Governor Charlie Crist entered the race as a hands-down favorite, but former Florida Speaker Marco Rubio is beginning to make some headway.

According to a new Mason-Dixon poll released yesterday, Rubio’s support has surged among Republican voters.  While Crist still leads the race by an impressive 51% to 23%, Rubio appears to be gaining ground.  According to the poll, only 52% of GOP primary voters had heard of Rubio.  But, among those who were familiar with the former Speaker, Rubio trails Crist by only 2 points—33% to 31%.

More details are available at the St. Pete Times.

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Charlie Crist Raking in the Dough

The St. Pete Times reports that Gov. Charlie Crist is prepared to release some rather impressive 1st quarter fundraising numbers next month.  While governing the state, Crist has somehow managed to squeeze in plenty of fundraisers from Jacksonville to Key West.  He’ll even travel to Washington, DC at the end of June for another one hosted by such GOP heavyweights as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

The impressive numbers will not be all that surprising; however.  As Adam Smith writes in The Times, Crist has delivered for some of the biggest donors in the state by signing bills that have loosened restrictions on developments, capped attorney’s fees in workers compensation cases and required insurance companies to pay out-of-network doctors.

An incumbent Governor always carries significant fundraising weight, but Charlie Crist takes it to an entirely different level.  It will be interesting to see what Marco Rubio, his GOP primary opponent, reports in the same time period.

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Politicians on Twitter = B-O-R-I-N-G

Great column by Beth Reinhard in the Miami Herald – sharing how politicians on Twitter spell “booooring” in 140 letters.  For example, I’m sure we all wanted to know such facts like it takes Marco Rubio’s wife forever to blowdry her hair.

I joined Twitter this week. Does that make me a twit? (Please don’t answer that.)

This is not why I got into journalism. Spewing online quips limited to 140 letters isn’t the crusade for truth and justice I once envisioned.

But as a lucky survivor in the struggling media biz, I wanted to see what the cool kids were doing. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about Florida’s political twittering class.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Marco Rubio Lights Up YouTube

Charlie Crist may have been anointed Senator by the Washington, DC Republican establishment.  He may lead in the first poll done on the race, but Marco Rubio is lighting up the web.  Why?

His farewell address when he was leaving his post as Speaker of the Florida House has drawn thousands of hits on YouTube in the last few days.

Crist’s support runs skin deep—he is merely seen by the Washington establishment as the best chance to hold a Republican seat.  Rubio’s followers, on the other hand, are believers.  They see him as the annointed conservative successor to Florida conservative heavyweight Jeb Bush.  For them, the establishment’s endorsement of Crist is another opportunity to feel betrayed by party bosses whose professions of conservative faith are often viewed as more a choice of convenience, and not necessarily a set of guiding principles.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

GOP Chairman Backs Down

Looking to avoid an all-out rebellion as local parties across the state from Duval to Palm Beach have passed resolutions stating that they will not interfere in Republican primaries, State Party Chair Jim Greer has announced that he is backing off efforts to endorse Charlie Crist in his primary battle with former House Speaker Marco Rubio.  Greer, a long-time ally of Governor Crist complained that he had thought his behind the scenes maneuvering was “confidential” and complained that information had been leaked to the press for “reasons unknown to him.”

Greer also went on to defend his appearance at a rally for Bill McCollum while Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson was still considering a race for Governor.  

The full text of his statement can be viewed here.

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To Have And To Hold: The Value of Primaries

The retirement of US Senator Mel Martinez, and the subsequent drama that has unfolded around the Republican candidates vying to replace him—former House Speaker Marco Rubio and Governor Charlie Crist—has thrust the age-old debate about the benefits of the primary system into the limelight.  To a lesser extent, the battle is also raging in the Governor’s race—where GOP leaders are trying to avoid a Bill McCollum vs. Charles Bronson fight—and in the race for Attorney General—where Democrats are trying to avoid a three way primary battle pitting Dave Aronberg against Dan Gelber and Rod Smith.

While not perfect, the primary system does exist for a reason.  Voters within a party have the right to have their voice heard when it comes to choosing the candidate that will represent their party in the general election.  (Of course, my personal preference would be a system that allows voters to choose from any candidate in the race, regardless of party where the top two vote getters advance to the general election.  The removes the current possibility to discriminate against voters who do not choose to belong to one of the main parties.)  Yet, although we are several hundred years into this unique American experience of democracy, leaders in both parties are attempting to deny voters the right to choose which candidate will represent their party.

The most visible battle has been the battle within the Republican Party over the Charlie Crist vs. Marco Rubio Senate race.  Jim Greer, the GOP Party Chairman and a long-time ally of Charlie Crist, made his preference for Crist rather clear when he attempted to use his power as Chairman to endorse Crist’s campaign.  While his efforts were thwarted by another member of the Executive Committee, he has continued to take shots at Marco Rubio.  Likewise, the Republican Party made it abundantly clear to Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson that his presence in a Republican Gubernatorial primary was not desired, something that was amazingly insulting to a man who has served the party quite faithfully for years.  Republicans are not alone, of course.  The leadership of the Democratic Party has been working just as diligently to avoid a 3-way primary for Attorney General, with the anticipated campaigns of Dave Aronberg, Rod Smith and Dan Gelber.

Florida’s voters should be insulted by the arrogance of party leadership that seems to presume that they have the authority to make decisions on behalf of voters.  If more than one candidate is interested in a race, party leadership should allow them the opportunity to make their case to the voters.  The voters are capable of deciding which one will best represent their party in a general election.

While smoking may be banned in public spaces, the era of the “smoke-filled back room” appears to have returned to Florida politics.  Despite the storied failures of “back room” candidates over the years (does the name Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal ring a bell for anyone?) Florida’s political elite have decided that they know what is best for the state.

The current arrogance of the leadership in our political parties makes you wonder how many potential “stars” they are bypassing as they push for what they see as the “most certain” path.  It may be hard to realize this when one is secluded in Tallahassee, but the candidates that voters often take to are not always the first choice of the party elite.  1978 is an excellent example of that.  One wonders if there would have ever been a Senator Bob Graham if the Democratic Party leadership had thrown their weight around in that seven-person Democratic primary

Let the voters decide, Mr. Greer and Ms. Thurman.  We are amazingly competent.

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The Coming Battle for the soul of the Florida GOP

The race to succeed retiring Senator Mel Martinez just got very interesting, not only for Florida, but really for the entire nation. 

The “contraction” of the Republican party has received a lot of media attention of late, particularly in light of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic party.  The reasons for Specter’s switch were fairly obvious—he was a moderate Republican incumbent facing a primary challenge from a conservative and all signs were pointing to a primary loss.  Specter’s move was the latest in a series of defeats for the Republican party, particularly the moderate wing within the party.  

In 2006, Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee lost his re-election bid after a tough primary challenge from a conservative Republican left him weakened in a general election.  In fact, more than one of the seats lost in the House during the 2006 and 2008 elections could be directly attributed to the defeat of moderate Republicans in a primary—or the retirement of a moderate.  So, how does this translate to Florida?

Charlie Crist is seen as a moderate, due in part to his support of Barack Obama’s stimulus package.  But, even before the Obama position—for which he was roundly attacked on talk radio—Crist had staked out more moderate positions on many of the hot-button issues. He’s anti-abortion, but don’t try to engage him in a long conversation on the matter.  He’s anti-gay marriage, but says it in a way that leaves no one completely offended.  He won a GOP primary in 2006 against an opponent who had tried to define himself as the only “true conservative” in the race.  In didn’t work in 2006, but could 2010 be a different story?  

Marco Rubio, after all, is no Tom Gallagher.  Sure, he never had a cameo appearance on “The Golden Girls”, but Rubio is young, telegenic and has always been a passionate “conservative”-something that Gallagher could only claim a late-in-life conversion to.  And, Rubio has come out swinging.  In his announcement, he took a step that many saw as unprecedented—attacking sitting Senators of his own party with whom he would have to caucus, assuming he won the primary and general election.  Lashing out at Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Rubio said that adding to their ranks was essentially the same as electing a Democrat.

While Crist’s popularity ratings have remained unusually high, his popularity among the rank-and-file Republican voters has suffered as of late, particularly after the onslaught he took from political
powerhouses like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity over his support of Obama’s stimulus package.  Their opposition [Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s], when combined with the support already being offered Rubio by the conservative Club for Growth, could signal trouble for Crist in a Republican primary likely to be dominated by conservatives.  While Crist’s political fortunes don’t necessarily concern many other than himself, Republicans do have to wonder how Rubio’s increasingly conservative message will sell in a state that voted for a Democratic President and a Democratic Senator in the most recent statewide elections.  

At this point, despite the potential of a bloodbath, the Republicans still have the strongest field in the race.  Both Democratic candidates currently in the race are facing their own hurdles.  Both candidates are from South Florida, something that could prove challenging as they move to win over more moderate and conservative voters from central and northern Florida. Likewise, neither are well known throughout the state, something that will necessitate significant fundraising success to change.  But, if bloody primaries offer a moderating state the choice between an outspoken conservative Republican and a more moderate Democrat, the Republican Party might have reason to worry.  

Could one have imagined Jeb Bush’s Florida with a Democratic Governor, Democratic Attorney General and two Democratic US Senators?  It may very well be possible…

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

Marco Rubio Running for Senate

We’ve sort of known all along, but the official announcement is out. Last night, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R-Miami) told Univision that he was running for the Republican nomination to succeed Mel Martinez in the US Senate. He is expected to make a formal announcement today via his website.

Of course, Rubio’s news sets up a titanic clash between he and Gov. Charlie Crist, who is also expected to announce as early as today, for the Republican nomination.

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Charlie Crist Close to decision on Senate Race

According to The Fix, Chris Cilizza’s blog on the Washington Post, Charlie Crist is ready to jet out of Tallahassee.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce his decision on the 2010 Senate race by May 5 with several informed sources suggesting to the Fix that he is a near-lock to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R).

If Crist jumps into the Senate race, the Governor’s race will be a toss-up, with Alex Sink and Bill McCollum seen as the front-runner’s in their respective primaries.  The Senate race could also feature a bruising primary challenge from Marco Rubio, who has shown no intentions of backing out were Crist to announce his entry in the race.

Crist has previously said he would make a decision by the end of the legislative session, and as yet, there has been no word on whether or not the extension of the session by one week will effect the timing of his decision.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Rubio Might Challenge Crist

It looks as if former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R-Miami) isn’t all that impressed by the supposed political powerhouse that is Charlie Crist.  Rubio has already staked out major differences with Crist that would make him [Rubio] more attractive the conservative wing of the Republican Party, particularly on the issue of gambling.  Now, “a source close to Rubio” says he may challenge Crist for the GOP nomination for the US Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez (R).  (Rubio may have been encouraged by the overwhelming boos that greeted Charlie Crist at a recent Miami Heat game.)

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio is considering running for the Senate whether or not Gov. Charlie Crist ultimately decides to run, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

Rubio, who previously said he would run for governor if Crist jumped in the Senate race, has shifted his thinking since the governor made some decisions that have been met with anger from the party’s conservative base.

What is particularly funny about this speculation is that the “source close to Rubio” is quite obviously Rubio himself.  After all, as soon as the article came out, Rubio Twittered it on his Twitter account.


Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

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