Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Next Republican Party of Florida Chair - & What It Says About Scott

I have no idea who's going to be the next chair of the Republican Party of Florida. To be quite honest, all the options appear fairly mundane and pedestrian and none of them inspire fear in me (as a Democrat) or particular respect (as a strategist). It's not that I actively disrespect any of them - they just all seem pretty "blah" to me. There's only one fresh face among them and no one who really stood out in the last election as having done something significant.

But what has struck me is how this battle is showing up the political weakness of Gov.-Elect Rick Scott.

In all the back and forth, we have yet to see any sign of Scott, the highest ranking Republican elected official in the state of Florida, having any real influence on the process at all. Now maybe he's got a lot of behind the scenes clout that we're just not seeing, but I doubt it - mainly because his transition has been so ham-handed that I don't think his team could organize a discreet, behind the scenes operation.

My question for you is - would Crist or Jeb have let themselves be so excluded from the process? Hell no! Crist forced the wildly incompetent and possibly criminal Jim Greer down the throats of the RPOF - twice, in fact.

Scott is probably staying out of this because he knows he wouldn't be listened and would risk a very public defeat/rebuke. His recommendation would be considered a nominal favorite, at best, and even then, a simple whisper in the right couple of ears by Tallahassee puppet master Haridopolos would kill it entirely, if Haridopolos thought it would help his quixotic quest for the U.S. Senate. On the other hand, if either Rubio or Jeb came out strongly for a candidate right now, that candidate would be an overwhelming favorite.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Things to Look in the New Congressional Districts

Right now, Tampa Bay (by which I mean Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties) is basically represented by the 9th, 10th, 11th, and a even a tiny fraction of the 12th Congressional Districts.

If the new redistricting amendments are followed (and even thought they passed overwhelmingly, Haridopolos is determined to circumvent the law, if he can), there will be some changes in the makeup of these seats.

I have heard nothing that leads me to believe that Tampa Bay has grown enough to warrant receiving one of Florida's two new congressional seats, so it will all be about re-arranging the chairs.

In order to comply with the new rules, the 10th district, represented for the past forty years by Bill Young, will have to change. Right now, it is the entirety of South Pinellas, except for a small chunk in Gulfport and South St. Pete. Then it snakes over to take some suburban communities outside of Tampa.

For me, I don't see any reading of the new constitutional amendment that would allow that. In the past, to preserve the 10th for Republicans when Young retires (and the man has been taking a gov't paycheck and healthcare for 2/3 of his working life now), they cut out African-American communities north of 22nd Ave in Gulfport and in South St. Pete and gave those to the already staunchly Democratic 11th District, based in Tampa. In return, Young was handed some "white flight" communities outside of Tampa.

Any reasonable, non-partisan redistricting would make this seat wholly within Pinellas and take everything in the county, starting from somewhere aroud Clearwater - though I couldn't say for certain whether it would include Clearwater or begin just south of that city.

The 9th would not be allowed to take the unnatural, wriggly form it now does. My first thought is to say that it loses all that space out towards Plant City, but that a lot of that is made up by the extra votes it gets from Pinellas (I see Palm Harbor and Dunedin and maybe even Clearwater being fully within the 9th). In order to make it compact, I would guess it travels north, rather spiraling east towards Polk.

The 11th would take some Hillsborough precincts currently within the 9th and 12th and would, as I said earlier, lose all attachment to Pinellas. The 12th, I envision as no longer including any precincts in Tamp Bay.

If I'm right, what does that mean?

The 9th becomes a little more competitive, but still trends Republican. If Bilirakis continues to keep a low profile and maintain his reputation for not being a leader on anything important or controversial, I don't see much reason to suspect that he won't hold that seat for at least as long as his father did. If he retires or does something visibly stupid or impolitic, the right candidate could topple him, but that would most likely be someone who held county or state office, because the municipalities in the district just aren't high profile enough to generate someone with a high enough profile.

The 10th becomes what it has been for years - a Bill Young's sinecure. However, the seat has always been 50/50 in most respects, with a Democratic registration advantage. That advantage will only grow stronger with the changes. When Young's time run out, neither Karen Seel nor Bill Foster will have it as easy as Young has had it.

Likewise, the solidly Democratic 11th becomes more competitive. You would expect Kathy Castor to hold the seat, nonetheless, but she will have to work harder. And when she takes the plunge and runs for statewide office, the general election will be almost as bloody as the primary, because the GOP will see a slim opportunity for a pick up.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PPP Poll Shows Nelson in a Strong Position

The results of this poll aren't too surprising. Jeb, should he run, leads Nelson 44-49. This should be interpreted as most likely meaning "a tie, but with a slight advantage for Jeb."

However, Jeb is unlikely to run for Senate. He doesn't need to re-insert himself into public office ahead of jumping into the ring for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. In fact, he is better off not generating the kind of paper trail of votes a Senator necessarily generates.

This leaves Lemieux, Haridopolos, Mack, and (someone I hadn't seriously considered before) Hasner in the mix.

As I suggested before, Connie Mack seems the strongest in these trial heats - though the margins are so small as to nearly inconsequential.

The only thing Lemieux and Haridopolos have going for them is that Mack may decide to take the money and run - by which I mean, stick with his safe congressional seat. Lemieux is now a former Senator and already hurtling towards public obscurity and Haridopolos is just two years away from being term limited into permanent obselescence. For them, it is 2012 or not at all. Mack can afford to party on for a few more years and then run as an elder statesman when Nelson retires or Rubio runs for president.

The Republican Presidential Bench Gets Worse and Worse; or, Haley Barbour Defends Pro-Segregationist Groups

Democrats fear him. Republicans adore him. Many consider him the best Republican strategist of his generation - above even Karl Rove and on a level with Lee Atwater.

And he appears to have jumped the shark.

He could continue to play a version of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" - sure it would alienate African-American voters, but he never planned on getting any African-American votes anyway. He had his flaws as a candidate - actually, he had many - but his savvy and the national network of "chits" he's built up on the right could have been enough to make him a legitimate candidate for the presidency. An underdog to be sure, but still with a potential path to victory based around rallying white male voters around his "good ole boy" folksy style, abetted by the kind of hardcore political knife fighting he was born knowing.

All he had to do was not to praise a pro-segregationist, white supremacist organizations from the Jim Crow era in glowing terms.

Really, it seems like a pretty low bar to hurdle. From the outside, you'd assume that there was almost no way that would come up in conversation anyway.

Yet there it was. Somehow, in the middle of a fluff piece being written for the Weekly Standard, a mouthpiece for testing out Republican policies, he managed to drop some kind words for the White Citizens Councils of the 50s and 60s.


A lot of folks said an overweight, unreconstructed Southerner with a long history as a top lobbyist for drug companies and tobacco companies - who even lobbied on behalf of Mexican companies for the United States to make additional concessions on NAFTA - could never make it all the way. I never believed those folks. I knew Haley to be a smart and ruthless campaigner who knew how to win. This was the man who defeated an incumbent governor in Mississippi in 2003. In 1994, Newt Gingrinch may have been the face of the Republican revolution, but the real mastermind behind it was then RNC chair Haley Barbour.

How could he have been so stupid?

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad (though I fear his self-destruction leaves a lot of room for Sarah Palin to get nomination - angry white men who wanted to send a message, but felt unsure of Palin's ability to win might easily have gravitated to Barbour; now there are fewer GOP candidates with the profile and smarts to take on Palin in a primary).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Republican Primary for Senate: Early Thoughts in 2012

After last November's spanking of Democrats, Republicans are lining up to take on Florida's senior Senator, Bill Nelson. These folks are hoping that 2012 is the fourth consecutive "wave" election (2006 and 2008 were Democratic wave elections and this year was a Republican one).

This seems unlikely, but it also seems like a reasonable wager to make (of course, Kendrick Meek probably thought that after seeing the carnage inflicted on the GOP in Florida in 2008, running for Senate seemed like a good idea - funny how fast these things can flip on you).

Senate President Mike Haridopolos is so far the only major figure to officially throw his hat in the ring. This is basically the only political office open to him - he's smack dab in Bill Posey's congressional district and Posey isn't giving it up anytime soon. Haridopolos will bring some solid fundraising strength in-state, but is unlikely to have the national connections that his two possible primary opponents will bring and since the last state budgets he presides over are likely to be complete disasters - well, let's just say he'll have some baggage. Mike's plan will have to be to fundraise early and hit up the big Tallahassee players for $2000 checks now - while he still have influence as a sitting Senate president. By the time the 2012 primary comes around, he'll be a lame duck and they won't be as eager to write those checks unless he does the work now to build up a solid lead. It's not easy to make the leap from state senate to the U.S. Senate - you may be well known in the hall of the Capitol in Tallahassee, but no one in Florida, outside of your district has the slightest idea who you are. Plus, starting out one's senate campaign by being found guilty of some fairly egregious ethics violations? Not so good, Mike. And with his low name recognition, those ethics charges may wind up being the first thing most voters ever hear about him.

Congressman Connie Mack IV has been making noises about running for Senate for a while now. He's got his congressional war chest and the experience raising hard, federal contributions that Haridopolos doesn't. He's also got the name. His father was a much liked Senator and the younger Mack won a series of races for the state house and then Congress based on that name. No one has ever accused Rep. Mack of being the brightest bulb in the store, but he'll be able to attract enough of the political talent and raise enough money to be a factor and you'd be foolish to write him off in a primary. He's not the cold-blooded political knife fighter that Haridpolos is, but he's got better name recognition and he knows the game. If he has a weakness, it's that he's not considered the smartest congressman and that both he and his wife, California Congresswoman Mary Bono-Mack, have a little bit of a reputation for being liking to party just a bit too much.

Finally, there's soon to be former interim Senator George Lemieux. When Crist appointed him Senator, he got a taste of power and now he wants more. Unfortunately, most of his apparent advantages have the tensile strength of papier-mache. His first strength is that, well, he was Senator for almost two years. But, I am willing to take a bet that most people in Florida still haven't heard of him. Sure, he tried hard. He appeared at every ribbon cutting he could and his press shop was emailing and faxing press releases like there were going out of style. But he still has c--p for name recognition. He's got tons of ties Tallahasse - he knows names of the first born children and marriage anniversaries of every lobbyist and check-cutter in in that town. But... all those ties are tainted (in so far as Republicans are concerned) by their origin: his one0-time close relationship with Charlie Crist. Those GOP'ers who actually know who he is can be divided into two camps: those who don't trust him because he was part of Crist's inner circle and those who don't trust him because he stabbed Crist in the back. Finally, he never could shake off a reputation as a bit of moderate when he was in the Senate (moderation being the kiss of death in Republican primaries). He did his best to come across as fire-breathing reactionary, but it never really worked. It didn't help that the Obama political team kept referring to him as a Republican Senator they could work with. It wasn't quite a hug, but neither is it helpful in a Republican primary to have that meme floating around.

There you have it.

My money, assuming something the dynamics don't significantly change, is on Connie Mack stumbling into the nomination as sort of a middle ground that no one really loves, but who no one dislikes and whose baggage is of less recent vintage than Haridopolos' ethics violations and Lemieux's "Crist factor."