It has been 1 day since Florida Senator Mel Martinez announced that he will not seek re-election in 2010. He was going to be in for a 2-year dogfight in order to hold on to the seat. The Democratic Party was going to target this race as Martinez is not popular within the state.
He had announced that his desire was to spend more time with his family. That may be partly true since I suspect it would have been immensely time consuming to regain any lost popularity and essentially making up for barely visiting South Florida during the last 4 years.
So where do we go from here?
Names are being thrown around from both parties. The media has been speculating about the Democratic names for a while since it was assumed that Martinez would be the Republican nominee. The names being bandied about from the Republican side are quite tough to beat. Most of the names I mentioned yesterday are now being mentioned plus some that I overlooked / never expected.
Before reviewing the potential names, I need to mention the party balance of the state. Florida leans Republican but will swing to the Democrats with a viable candidate option. We all know about Florida in the presidential race of 2000. Florida did vote for Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008.
2000 also had an open Senatorial race. Republican Connie Mack III was retiring from the Senate and in the General Election Florida elected Democrat Bill Nelson over Republican Bill McCollum.
Approximately two-thirds of Florida’s House and Senate are comprised of Republicans and the ratio didn’t improve during the 2008 election which saw a strong move to the Democrats nationally.
The Republican names
Without question, the Republican field to replace Martinez is packed with huge names. These candidates are well-known statewide and a number are well-known nationally. Unless something changes between now and Election Day 2010, I can not fathom that the Democrats will win this seat.
The name that must top the list is former Governor Jeb Bush. He was the first Republican to be elected to 2 terms as governor in Florida. He was thought of to be destined for the presidency until George W’s popularity hurt the Bush name. As I mentioned yesterday, the Senate would be the perfect place for Jeb to restore the name and for time to pass so the Americans with short memories can forget the last 8 years.
I do suspect that Floridians have forgotten that Jeb, like W, governed for his party, without checks and balances. If Floridians voted for an amendment that Jeb didn’t agree with, he ignored it. How’s the Florida bullet train doing or the smaller class sizes?
Today, Americans look at Jeb as just another W. In my opinion, Jeb is smarter, just as stubborn and a much better communicator. If America sees Jeb in the Senate for 4-8 years, they may decide that Jeb would be a strong president and quite unlike his older brother.
With regards to Jeb’s interest in the Senate: Reports are that he is interested. He sent an email to Politico Tuesday night saying, “I am considering it.”
And if Jeb does announce his candidacy, it will quiet the blogs as well as the media. I would suspect that most of the prominent candidates from both parties would forego a run and anyone else would be crushed.
But in case he doesn’t run, we should have 2 years of interesting discussions ahead. The rest of the Republican field could consist of:
Marco Rubio – Former Florida Speaker of the House, he is a strong conservative and has been at odds with Republican Governor Charlie Crist because Crist is too moderate. It was rumored that he may consider a run at governor against Crist in 2010 but the senate does seem like an option if Bush opts not to run.
Charlie Crist – First-term Florida governor. He was a short-list candidate to be John McCain’s running mate. He is highly popular in the state – even with Democrats – and should coast in his re-election bid, but his name has come up for the Senate. Obviously, his office has indicated that he will run for re-election in 2010. Crist, for the most part has attempted to cross party lines. I don’t agree with everything he does but he has scored points with me for a number of items, most recently extending early voting hours in the state which permitted more Floridians to cast a vote.
Bill McCollum – The current Attorney General who twice lost in governor’s races. He is up for re-election in 2010 and has indicated his intention to go that route. I would consider him a top tier candidate but well below Bush and Crist.
Toni Jennings is the former Lt. Governor under Jeb and decided against a run for governor. I will be curious to see if her name surfaces as a candidate.
Jeff Kottkamp is the current Lt. Governor. A sure mid-tier candidate, he will definitely wait to see if Jeb or Crist opt for the seat. If neither do, I suspect that Kottkamp may go for it. If Crist decides to aim for the Senate, Kottkamp may run instead for governor. Otherwise, expect Kottkamp to run with Crist again in 2010.
Connie Mack IV – He currently is the US Rep from Florida’s 14th district which includes Naples and Ft. Myers. His father was a U.S. Senator from 1989 – 2001. This seat is now currently held by Bill Nelson. Thanks to his father, Mack has strong name recognition in the state. I suspect that only die-hard sports fans will have heard of his great-grandfather.
Joe Scarborough – Host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Scarborough served in the US House from 1995 – 2001. He was approached to run against Bill Nelson in 2006 which he refused – the Republican nominee was former Sec. of State Katherine Harris.
John Mica – I said ‘who’ when I first saw his name. He is a US Rep out of the Winter Park area. His spokesman stated that a decision on whether or not to run will not come until after the first of the year.
Rush Limbaugh – he lives in Palm Beach. He makes a ton of money and loves to criticize the left. I’d love to see him put his money where his mouth is and give the Senate a try. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Al Franken and Rush Limbaugh were both in the Senate?
Regardless of who the Democrats put out there, it will be tough for them to win. Only Florida CFO Alex Sink has any real statewide name recognition. The Democrats do have 2 years to build a viable candidate – Obama was able to do it on a national scale in that time. The problem is, the Florida Democrats are not a particularly well-run group. How else do you explain their inability to capitalize on a Democratic year? The national party would have to come down here and get involved.
I will discuss the Democratic candidates and any changes with the Republicans in my next post on the race.