Friday, February 11, 2011

Rubio Makes First Moves towards 2016 Presidential Run

When Senator Marco Rubio hired Terry Sullivan to be his deputy chief of staff, he also made his first move towards securing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Terry Sullivan is not a big name in Florida politics. He is not particularly known as being big on "the Hill." He is a political strategist, pure and simple. More to the point, he is a South Carolina political strategist. Even better (for Rubio's political ambitions), he is very closely tied to Tea Party favorite, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint (whose early endorsement of Rubio helped him gain the necessary traction to pull away from Charlie Crist).

What does this have to do with running for president? Easy, after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary is the South Carolina primary. It's one of the traditional early primary states. And one that might, under normal circumstances, have trouble voting for a latino, especially one whose parents were born in another country.

The Iowa caucuses are all about organization. If Rubio struggles there, it will be because of the influence of evangelical protestants (though he has been working to shore up that side of things, as well - suggesting to evangelicals that he is protestant, while assuring Catholics that he is not apostate and has not left the church).

New Hampshire very well might appreciate a fresh, charismatic face, like Rubio. They like fiscal conservatives, and though Rubio's actual history of being a profligate spender (in both his legislative career and personal life), he has successfully re-cast himself as a fiscal conservative.

This leaves South Carolina as an unanswered question/problem for a Rubio candidacy.

Make no mistake - Terry Sullivan wasn't hired to serve the people of Florida. He exists to serve Rubio's political ambitions.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Jeb 2012

I have been thinking a lot about Rich Lowry's National Review piece about Jeb Bush's chances if waits to run for president in 2016, instead of 2012. I cheerfully admit that I have bought into the conventional wisdom that Jeb is making the right choice in keeping his powder dry for 2016 - Obama is a heavy favorite for re-election, so 2016 will represent an open seat, plus the bad memories of his brother's failed presidency will have all but completely faded away.

Normally, I find Rich Lowry to be an unctuous and embarrassingly groveling sort of guy. And I think that National Review has fallen on hard times, intellectually speaking, since the late, great William F. Buckley left the scene. While I might have been on the other side of many issues from Buckley, but especially since rising above the racism and anti-semitism of his early career, I almost always respected his mind. None of his successors have been worthy to even shine his shoes.


Lowry struck a chord with me. Since accepting that 2012 was a bad idea for any Bush to run for president, I have not bothered to delve below the surface of that assertion. But maybe I - and maybe we all - were wrong (except for Lowry - which might be a sign of the apocalypse).

Would Rubio really step aside for Jeb if he saw an opening? Will Bush really be a better name than Christie or Jindal or Pence (who will probably be running from a perch as governor of Indiana, instead of just being a Congressman, by then). Now that the questions have been raised, the answers don't seem to clear.

If this is so, and since Jeb seems committed to skipping out on 2012, the question now becomes whether the man who once ruled Florida with a near iron fist will swiftly become an irrelevant afterthought. He will still be a factor as an endorser in GOP primaries in Florida, but his time as a major player, across the board in Florida and nationwide, might be coming to end. In which case, perhaps Lowry's assertion struck a chord because I hope that he's right (after eight years of running Florida's budget and economy into the ground and creating long-term, structural crises for us and his successors to clean up, I'm ready to see him become a non-factor).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Redistricting - "Inside the Lines"

Whatever you may think of Peter Schorsch, he is well plugged into the Tampa Bay scene.

His new website, InsideTheLines, aims to be the new clearinghouse for redistricting info.

Boehner Flexes His Party Leadership Muscles

The election of Reince Priebus was a minor setback for the newly crowned Speaker, John Boehner. He didn't have a whole lot of skin in the game, in the sense that Priebus will be a willing partner with Boehner. I only mean that Boehner was openly and strongly supporting a different candidate.

Not a big deal, but I suspect it was something to do with who got picked to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address. The smart money was on Marco Rubio to deliver the response - who surely would have jumped at the chance to further raise his national profile. But when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie turned it down, they didn't go to Rubio. They went to Paul Rubio, a congressman from Wisconsin.

My personal suspicion is that this is Boehner letting Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the Senate, know that the House (which is controlled by the Republicans) is where it's at - not the Senate (where Democrats still run things).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dear NRSC: We Would Take You More Seriously If You Bothered to Learn How to Spell the Name of Our State

The National Republican Senatorial Committee issued the following tweet as the first salvo in their effort to unseat the Sunshine State's senior senator, Bill Nelson:

NRSC Stmt: We look forward to debate on Sen Nelson's record of putting Obama’s reckless govt agenda over Floridia

I would take their efforts more seriously if it weren't clear that they had assigned an intern the task of taking down Nelson. But, as a note for future NRSC statements - it's spelled "Florida" not "Floridia."

Rubio and the Tea Party Caucus

The fact that Senator Rubio is waffling on whether or not to join the Tea Party Caucus is hardly surprising.
Ideologically, Rubio is not the insurgent type - he never has been (his primary against Crist, notwithstanding). He's always been part of the establishment and his ideology is much that of an establishment politician.

But he's also an opportunist and he was glad to use the Tea Party mantle to undermine Crist. However, we should not forget how quickly he abandoned that mantle once he had taken a nearly insurmountable lead over Crist in the primary.

The Tea Party was not something deeply felt for Rubio - it was a necessary tool to get himself elected (and considering that state of his personal finances, getting elected was about the only thing standing between him and bankruptcy), but that's all.

Now, he wants to be president. Or vice-president. And he has to walk a fine line, because this will not happen if he becomes the official face of the Tea Party. But part of his popularity comes from his association with the Tea Partiers.

So right now, Rubio and his political team are trying to figure out how to keep close ties to the Tea Party grassroots, while managing not to officially joining the main Tea Party org in the Senate (the Tea Party Caucus) - and he has to do this without giving the impression that he is dissing the Tea Party now that he's a Senator.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Talent Search

There's a been a lot of talk about George LeMieux having an informal meeting with GOP media strategist, Fred Davis. It's attracted more attention than Mike "The Appeaser" Haridopolos sitting down with Tampa strategist, Adam Goodman. Adam is a good name in Florida circles, but Davis has got a huge national profile, so that's what all the buzz has been about.

Davis famously did McCain's reasonably well received "Celebrity" commercial. Of course, he's now most famous for his web ad for Carly Fiorina, the famous "Demon Sheep" commercial. "Demon Sheep" was, to say the least, less well-received. It was considered laughable, confusing, and a bit of a distraction for the campaign (who had to answer questions about her media strategy, instead of talking about her qualifications for a while). But it also drew a lot of attention to the campaign and maybe they decided it was worth it, in the end.

In any case, if LeMieux is considering hiring Davis, it shows he understands that he is coming into this race from a position of relative weakness. Someone like Davis is almost guaranteed to help him run a paid media operation that operates "out of the box." I get nervous when people talk about working "outside of the box," but when you're in LeMieux's position, the best way to lose is to run a standard campaign, because all things being equal, in that scenario, he loses. He has to shake things up and stand out in some way.

One of Fred Davis' quirky ads could turn him into a laughingstock, or it could create the kind of daylight between himself and Haridopolos and Mack that he so desperately needs. Mack can run a traditional campaign that capitalizes on a name that is well, if not deeply, beloved in GOP circles. Haridopolos can flex the almost dictatorial powers he's going to have in Tallahassee to wring endorsements and support from establishment power players across the state. LeMieux can't do either of these things, so he will need to do something to stand out.

Maybe a crazy ad campaign is just the ticket. At the very least, it might be worth a try.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mary Bono Mack Scandal to Have Reverberations in Florida?

My early prognosis for the GOP race for the right to challenge Bill Nelson gave Connie Mack a slight edge over Mike "The Appeaser" Haridopolos and George "Fair Weather Friend" LeMieux. Not because of anything Mack's ever done, of course, just the luck of the draw. And early polling bore that out, too.

But all this guessing, more than a year and half before the primary, is just that - guesswork. Because so much can change.

I have noted that Mack has a reputation for being a bit of a lightweight and some people still remember when he was in charge of scheduling party appearances for "Hooters" girls. When he married fellow Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), it seemed like too much of a bad thing. She had a reputation for loving to party and an unsubstantiated reputation for using recreational drug use (not a deal breaker for the constituents of her home town of Palm Springs).

Well, she got caught in some compromising conditions, to say the least. Rather than go into detail, I'll direct you to this article, or better yet, check out what Wonkette has to say on the matter.

If this has legs, it could very easily make a statewide race much more difficult for her husband, providing an opening for LeMieux or Haridopolos (or a fourth candidate) to exploit.

It also points out a big of a gap in the field - the absence of a family values candidate. LeMieux is the moderate (though trying not to be - moderation is the kiss of death in a GOP primary) and Haridopolos is the candidate of the Tallahassee establishment. Connie Mack, with his dad's famous name, is sort of the candidate of Old Florida Tradition.

LeMieux could try and reinvent as the family values guy, of the tiny sliver of the electorate who knows who he is, half know him as the guy who stabbed Crist in the back and half know him as the right hand man to a governor that a lot of folks still suspect of being secretly gay or bi-sexual. Neither of these things scream "family values" to me.

Likewise, Haridopolos trying to take that mantle sounds too much like when Tom Gallagher tried that. Granted, Haridopolos doesn't suffer from Gallagher's hard partying history (at least not so far as I know), but it does remind me of when Steve Forbes decided to run for president as a culture warrior and, frankly, no one bought the act.

Any thoughts? Who could step up from the GOP back bench as the family values candidate?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

NGP Trial Started Yesterday

This is very much insider baseball, but a lawsuit against NGP, the largest vendor of fundraising and finance management software for Democrats, started today.

The non-partisan, political technology firm Aristotle filed the lawsuit, alleging that though NGP claims to be a partisan firm, helping only Democrats. Artistotle, which does help organizations affiliated with both parties filed a lawsuit claiming that this is complete bunk - that NGP actually helps a large number of very Republican PACs.

Some of the evidence presented included a 2004 agreement with Capital Advantage to provide NGP software to PACs and "right-leaning" 527s. Some PACs utilizing NGP supported Republicans over Democrats by as much as 95% to 4%.

Insider baseball, like I said, but NGP has been a major player in Democratic vendor circles and have had access to a lot of sensitive info. This is a big deal.