Monday, October 30, 2006

More Jeb Bush For Vice-President Talk

It's no secret that Gov. Jeb Bush is laying the groundwork for a run for the presidency in either 2012 or 2016. But lately, rumors have been circulating that he may not wait that long to run for national office - but as a nominee for vice president.

Until now, the rumors have focused on Arizona Senator John McCain. McCain earned a reputation as a independent and a maverick, but to win the GOP nomination in 2008, he has been burnishing his credentials as a loyal GOP footsoldier - and there would be no better way to do that than to appoint the current president's socially conservative brother.

But now, a new rumor has surfaced - Romney-Bush. Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney has emerged as the strongest challenge to McCain's campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. Romney is aligning himself with the evangelical wing of the GOP because they are a major factor in the nomination process, particularly in Iowa, where the first caucus will be held and where the tone will be set. He also knows that the evangelical community still does not trust McCain.

Romney, however, has some problems of his own, because his Mormon faith puts him out of the protestant evangelical mainstream. If he were to win the support of Jeb Bush, whose actions in the Terry Schiavo case made him a rock star in conservative evangelical circles, those problems would start to melt away.

Bush’s former chief of staff and top political adviser, Sally Bradshaw, has already joined Romney's Commonwealth PAC and Romney has been appearing with Jeb at campaign events and fundraisers in Florida.

While initially disparaged, Romney has proven himself to be a strong fundraiser and organizer and has left many '08 contenders in the dust. Though I had originally only seen him as a dark horse, with the collapse of the would-be candidacies of Senators Bill Frist and Sam Brownback and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Romney and McCain are the only two candidates who seem well positioned to make it all the way to the 2008 Republican convention.

Campbell Leads in Race for Attorney General

Democratic State Senator Walter "Skip" Campbell (seen in the photo with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz) holds a slight, but significant lead in the race for Attorney General. In the most recent public poll, he leads with 41% of the vote to 36% for former Congressman Bill McCollum.

When McCollum entered the race, he quickly raised significant campaign monies and cleared the field in the Republican primary. His wide name recognition from campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2000 gave him a seemingly insurmountable advantage.

Unfortunately, he has not been nearly so successful as the GOP might have hoped - and a big reason is because what most Floridians remember about McCollum is voting against him. In 2000, he lost to Bill Nelson in the general electino and in 2004 he lost to Mel Martinez in the GOP primary. In both campaigns, he developed a reputation for negative attacks and hard-line conservative image.

24% of the electorate is still undecided, but because McCollum is already a known commodity, he will find it difficult to win them over. Undecided, traditionally, break for the lesser known candidate because the better known candidate has already had significant time to win them over and failed (in McCollum's case, six years and two statewide races).

Crist Still Holds Lead, But Fails to Close the Deal

Attorney General Charlie Crist has been frontrunner since day one, but as the election comes to a close, he as not been able to seal the deal. Democratic Congressman Jim Davis continues to stay on Crist's heels in the final week of the campaign.

The latest poll shows Crist at 48% and Davis at 42%, but after trouncing Gallagher in the primary and building a huge advantage in both hard and soft money contributions, Crist cannot seem to get over the magic 50% number.

This is a sharp difference from a month ago when he held 16 point lead in the polls and was sitting pretty with 54%.

Sink Takes Lead for First Time in Poll

A recent St. Petersburg Times poll surveyed 800 Florida voters. The poll found 41% for Democratic businesswoman Alex Sink, 35% for Republican Senate President Tom Lee and 24% undecided. The margin of error for the poll was 3.5%.

This is the first public poll I'm aware of that puts Sink ahead (and significantly ahead).

Another poll released by the Republican firm, Strategic Vision, found almost the reverse and gave Tom Lee 45% and Alex Sink 38%, with undecided 17 percent.

My personal suspicion is that Sink is creeping ahead, helped by her ads and an almost overwhelming advantage in newspaper endorsements (though I ultimately don't believe that every newpaper endorsements count for very much) and Lee's apparent inability to capitalize on any of his natural advantages. However, the one thing both polls agree on is that the undecided are huge and how they break will determine this race.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Davis Moving Up in the Polls?

Recent polls show Congressman Jim Davis' numbers moving dramatically closer to frontrunner, Attorney General Charlie Crist. Back in early October, Rassmussen Reports had Crist leading by 16 points and also had Crist sitting over the magical 50% mark with 54%. Two recent polls show Crist failing to break over 50% and one of shows him in a statistical dead heat with Davis.

A Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Crist at 50% and Davis at 39%. While these number is unlikely to cause panic at Crist HQ, it does show his support softening.

A Quinnipiac poll, taken more recently, shows the two candidates in a statistical dead heat, with Crist at 46% and Davis at 44%. This poll, if not an abberration, will cause sleepless nights for Crist's campaign manager.

Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, speculates that "the large swing among independent voters may also reflect a national Democratic wave that seems to be taking hold around the country." He also notes that Davis' campaign seems to have "hit a chord with women." After having been tied with Crist among women voters, the Democrat now leads by 16 points.

Personally, I don't believe Davis is within two points of Crist, but there is no doubt that a significant number of Crist voters have left him and are now undecided. This is due to two factors.

The first is that Crist has been flip flopping a lot lately. The second, is that Davis has now been on the air for a while and voters are learning more about him and liking what they hear. That said, Davis has not locked up those undecided voters who have moved away from Crist and it remains to be seen where they will wind up on Election Day.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Big Endorsement Post

Below are links to brief quotes from the endorsements of the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune in a number of our community's most interesting races.

St. Petersburg Times

SD 10 - Stephen Gorham: For a better state Senate ("His opponent, Ronda Storms, 41, made her name inflaming social and partisan division... She has few real achievements to run on")

SD 16 - Charlie Justice: For a better state Senate ("Berfield had her chance [to solve the insurance crisis] and failed to deliver. Rep. Charlie Justice ambitious attempt to solve the problem... Justice offers a more independent voice for residents of the district")

Tampa Tribune

HD 57 - We Endorse A Newcomer For State House ("Unlike Culp, who has never been a leader on growth problems, Cope has a good grasp of the need to invest in transportation, protect the environment and make sure new development doesn't create costly problems for a community")

CD 9 - For U.S. Congress: Busansky ("Busanksy would make things happen in Congress, regardless of which party is in power")

SD 16 - For State Senate: Berfield ("Berfield has shown herself to be a conscientious legislator")

SD 10 - For Senate: Gorham ("Storms is better at grabbing headlines than getting things done... Gorham is someone who can represent all his constituents, regardless of their beliefs)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gorham Receives Tribune Endorsement in SD 10

Democrat Stephen Gorham (see photo) beat out Republican mainstay and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Rhonda Storms for the Tampa Tribune's endorsement.

Storms has long been known as contentious and abrasive character in the Tampa political scene. So it is no surprise that the Tribune cited these attributes in it's endorsement, calling Storms "a politician who would rather pick a fight than find a solution."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

'527s' Attack Justice, Confuse the Issues

State Representative Kim Berfield's campaign for the state senate is benefitting from independent expenditures paid for by outside groups. In the latest, her opponent, State Representative Charlie Justice (pictured above with Senator Bill Nelson) is once again being attacked for "neglecting the insurance crisis."

That this attack is ridiculous and misplaced is not in any doubt. Berfield is well known for carrying water for the insurance industry and was named Representative of the Year in 2004 by the Florida Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Florida Insurance Council. In addition, her campaign is being heavily funded by the insurance industry.

However, this is a smart attack. Voters are angry about the rising homeowners insurance rates and were beginning to be aware of where Berfield's loyalties are, but this attack sows confusion among the voters of SD 16. It also allows Berfield to appear to remain above the fray, while her supporters engage in a negative and misleading campaign against Justice. She is a smart campaigner and this may be enough for the insurance industry to keep one of their closest allies employed in Tallahassee.

As a voter, I'm appalled, as a political consultant, I'm impressed.

Busansky Hits Bilirakis on Homeowners Insurance, Receives St. Pete Times Endorsement

In the 9th Congressional District, former Hillsbrough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky's underdog campaign continues to hammer on State Representative Gus Bilirakis in her latest ad for taking contributions from the insurance industry and then failing to effectively address skyrocketing insurance.

Her campaign was buyoed on Monday, October 16 by the endorsement of the St. Petersburg Times. The time was highly critical of Bilirakis, calling his record as a legislator "unimpressive" and arguing that his campaign to succeed his father makes Congress is being treated like "a family business."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

House Democratic Leader to Campaign for Busansky

Illinois Congressman Rahm Emmanuel (see photo) is chair of the Democratic Congressinal Campaign Committee (DCCC - known as the "D Triple C" or just the "D Trip"), the arm of the Democratic party solely devoted winning and protecting Congressional seats. He has a reputation among Congressional candidates as a demanding task master. Though not considered in the same tier as Florida's CD 22 (Shaw v Klein) or CD 13 (Jennings v Buchanan), where recent polling shows the Democrat with a surprising, double digit lead, our own CD 9 has earned Emmanuel's personal attention. The Congressman is hosting a mid-dollar breakfast fundraiser (minimum recommended donation is $250) for former Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky at the Tampa Club from 8:30-9:30 am on Thursday, October 19th.

As the number of competitive seats continues to grow and, more importantly, as more and Republican seats are being effectively conceded to the Democratic challengers, candidates like Busansky are getting more attention. Emmanuel insists though that any candidates who want help, need to prove first that they are capable of helping themselves. By raising over $1 million, she has proven exactly that.

CD 9 must still be considered a Republican leaning seat. State Representative Gus Bilirakis is favored by the marginally Republican nature of the seat (though less Republican than other seats in the country where Democrats are running strongly ahead), but more importantly by the fact that he is running to succeed his father, outgoing incumbent Mike Bilirakis, in this seat and the fact that his father has put all his Washington connections to work to give his son a strong financial advantage in this what is a relatively expensive media market (last time I checked, you can expect a week of television in the Tampa Bay media market to cost upwards of $250,000).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Warner Will Not Run for President

Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who recently campaigned for Democrats in the Tampa Bay area, announced that he will not be running for President, as was expected. He was considered a strong contender, but his name recognition in key, early primary states failed to match the buzz he generated among donors and political insiders.

My sources who worked with Warner on his gubernatorial campaign and in his administration say that he is leaning towards a Senate run in 2008.

Foley Becomes an Issue in CD 9 Ads

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Democratic candidate for the 9th Congressional District is running ads attacking Republican candidate and State Representative Gus Bilirakis for his stance on Foley-gate.

Bilirakis told The Hill, and insider Washington weekly newspaper, that "We have no stance on that now – we'll worry about that after we win."

Now, Busansky is publicizing that quote in a 15 second ad.

Alex Sink Television Ad: "Cut Off"

Democratic candidate for CFO and former bank president, Alex Sink, has hit the airwaves with "Cut Off." Tampa Bay's own Sink was also endorsed by the Palm Beach Post.

Her opponent, State Senate President Tom Lee, is also running an titled "Reformer."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Channel 10 Polls on Foleygate Fallout

Channel 10 news recently called a relative in Pinellas County, polling primarily on issues relating U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's possible negligence/complicity in failing to deal with former Congressman Mark Foley's predations on teenage boys prior to his actions being made public.

The poll questioned extensively on whether Hastert should be allowed to remain Speaker or whether he should even step down from his congressional seat. There was also a question about Amendment 3, which would make it harder for voters to pass citizen backed initiatives.

The call was received on October 9, 2006.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another Fundraiser for Justice

Rep. Charlie Justice continue to amp up his fundraising in an uphill money race against Rep. Kim Berfield, whose coffers have benefited from some $73,000 in contributions from the insurance industry - not including any contributions made by the insurance industry during the most recent campaign finance filings periods.

His next fundraiser will be held in Clearwate on Tuesday, October 10th from 7-8:30 pm at the home of John & Deborah Tucker.

Justice raised $19,000 in the period between September 16-29, but this total was far outweighed by the $77,000 raised by Berfield. However, they are both about even in cash on hand, with slightly over$100,000 each.

Numbers courtesy of the Florida Division of Elections.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cope to Benefit from Fundraiser with an Environmental Theme

A fundraiser for Deborah Cope, the Democratic candidate for HD 57, is being held at the home of Phil Compton and Liz Taylor. Compton is an environmental activist and program director Florida Consumer Action Network.

The event will take place on Thursday, October 12 from 6-8 pm.

The invitation explains that "Deborah has a proven record of fighting for our environment. She is a leading voice in our community for growth management, sustainability and protection of our natural resources."

Cope is a former chair of the Tampa Group of the Sierra Club.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Justice Victory Could Tip Balance Towards Moderates

Channel 10 political analyst Lars Hafner argues that a victory for Charlies Justice in SD 16 could allow a coalition of moderates to dominate the state senate. At present, there are 14 Democrats and 26 Republicans in the state senate. However, there are 6 so-called "renegade Republicans" who could work with the Democrats to push for a moderate agenda in the senate. A victory by Justice would give the moderates a 21-19 majority in the senate.

The "renegades" are generally considered to be the Republicans who joined with the Democrats in opposing efforts to undermine the voter-passed class size amendment.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Warner to Campaign for Busansky

Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner (see photo) will be headlining a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidate and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky. The event will take place Wednesday, October 4th from 5:00 - 6:30 pm at the home of prominent Democratic fundraisers, Tom & Linda Scarritt.

The fundraiser is part of a full day for Warner, who will also be attending an event in Tallahassee and a fundraiser for the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.

Warner is expected to be a leading Democratic candidate for President in 2008.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Congressional Majority Leader Writes Off Foley's Seat

The House Majority Leader, Congressman John Boehner conceded former Congressman Mark Foley's seat to the Democrats in an interview with Sean Hannity.

"To vote for this candidate, you have to vote for Mark Foley," Boehner said. "How many people are going to hold their nose to do that?"

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rethinking Bense

Lately, rumors have been swirling that the former speaker of the Florida House, Allan Bense (see photo) might wish to success Carole Jean Jordan as chair of the Republican Party of Florida. However, activists might be advised to remember his consistent refusal to enter the race for U.S. Senate.

He was repeatedly approached by top Republicans, including Gov. Bush, and urged to enter the race to challenge vulnerable Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, but finally declined.

Presumably, his thinking was that no one could defeat Congresswoman Katherine Harris in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. However, Harris was ultimately held to under 50% by a trio of little known opponents who entered the opponent. In other words - most GOP voters voted for somebody not Harris.

The fact is, had Bense entered the race, with the support of the Gov. Bush and White House and virtually every prominent Republican in the state, he would have had the resources to compete with Harris and would likely have been the Republican nominee.

So, instead of an experienced and canny politician with deep ties to the Republican stronghold in the Panhandle, the Republican party is saddled with a lunatic leading the ticket.

Could Bense have defeated Nelson? Maybe not, but at least he could have tested him, unlike Harris, about whom voter opinions range from "dangerously paranoid" to "crazier than an outhouse rat."

If Bense does decide to make a play for the RPOF chairmanship, activists might ask why he didn't stand up for his party's interests when he had the chance.