Last week former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced that he would not seek the US Senate seat in 2010. Mel Martinez announced December 2, 2008 that he would not seek a second term.
The seat was Jeb’s for the taking. He was a very popular Governor (even though I found him to be extremely stubborn and highly partisan). I’m sure he has the larger prize in mind – the presidency. In the meantime, I expect that he’ll take the precautions necessary for either a 2012 or 2016 run at the White House. (The arduous work of repairing the Bush name)
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, both parties look to field a large group of candidates.
After Jeb, the most popular political figure in Florida is current Governor Charlie Crist. He is quite popular and would coast to re-election in 2010. If he opts to run for the Senate, he should coast to victory there as well. Like Jeb, Crist has his eyes set on the White House. He spent a couple of very painful months working to become John McCain’s running mate. He changed some key positions pandering to the team that would eventually make that selection.
Crist would be best served staying in the governor’s mansion if he has plans on a future White House run. It should be interesting how it would play out if Jeb and Crist run in the same primary. Though on a side note, both have problems: Jeb carries the tarnished Bush name and Crist is a moderate Republican which would alienate the religious base more than McCain.
So who does this leave?
The leading Republican candidate is former Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio. Very popular within his party he had been publicly at odds with Crist on issues when Crist worked across party lines. Rubio had indicated that he could run for governor against Crist in 2010.
Rubio would be a shoo-in for the Senate as he is one of the most well-known candidates (after Bush and Crist – unless 72-year old Bob Graham elects to return to the Senate. It was, after all his seat that Martinez is now vacating.)
Rubio was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000 and recently served 2 years as Speaker of the House. Though he hasn’t formerly announced, it is widely expected that he will. He has set up a website and begun a fundraising campaign.
I’ve previously addressed the Republican candidates and will update my list shortly but wanted to address the Democrats here. The winner will most likely lose to whoever the Republicans put up in the election. I do find it hard to imagine Marco Rubio not coming out on top.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is the other main Republican candidate. He has previously had unsuccessful runs at the US Senate (most recently in 2004 primaries where he was smeared and lost to Martinez). He may run for the Senate this time, though I see him running for re-election as AG followed by a run for governor.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler have already announced that neither would pursue this seat. It is a smart decision for each as both have bright futures in the House. Wexler was an early supporter of President-elect Barack Obama and a strong vocal voice into the impeachment of Dick Cheney. The latter didn’t fly with Congress but was popular with many liberals.
Wasserman Schultz is considered to be a future leader within the party in Washington.
Potentially both would lose their House seats if they try and fail at the Senate. Both are very strong candidates in the southern part of Florida but would not do well in the more conservative section of Florida to the north.
My supporting argument as to why Wasserman Schultz and Wexler would remain in the House is best exemplified by Peter Deutsch. My former Congressman served in the House from 1993 – 2005. In 2004, he took a shot at the Senate seat vacated by Bob Graham. He ended up losing the primary to Betty Castor and as a result finds himself out of politics. Since he ran for the Senate, he couldn’t run for re-election in the House opening the door for Wasserman Schultz.
I see Deutsch considering another run, if he can gather the funds. The problem for Deutsch is that he in enormously popular in South Florida and a virtual unknown elsewhere in the state – which explains why he only won the 3 South Florida counties and no other.
Deutsch’s main primary opponent in the 2004 Senate race was Betty Castor. She is well-known in the state but lost the 2004 Senate General Election to Martinez. She chose not to run for governor in 2006. As a result, I will be surprised to see her give the Senate another shot. She would have an outside chance of beating Rubio in the General Election as she currently does have more name recognition.
With strong Republicans in the race, I would also doubt that Representatives Allen Boyd, Ron Klein and Kathy Castor (daughter of Betty Castor) would jump in.
Jim Davis began his political career in the Florida House serving from 1989-1996 and was House Majority Leader his last 2 years. In 1997, he moved to the House of Representatives in the seat now occupied by Kathy Castor. Davis did not run for re-election in 2006 opting to run for Governor where he lost the General Election to Charlie Crist. I can definitely see Davis running for the open Senate seat and would have to be a favorite to win the Democratic primary. I do believe that he would give Rubio his best run for the money.
A Davis / Betty Castor race would be very interesting.
2 other strong Democratic names are current Florida CFO Alex Sink. She will be up for re-election in 2010 so it will be interesting to see which direction she goes. I could also see her running for governor in 2014.
Lastly, there is Daryl Jones. I am a huge fan of Jones. He failed in the Democratic primary in 2002 which saw Bill McBride (Alex Sink’s husband) defeat Jones and Janet Reno for the honor of getting thrashed by Jeb Bush in his re-election campaign. Jones was chosen to be the running mate of Jim Davis against Charlie Crist in 2006.
Though Jones is not currently in politics, his name isn’t that far removed. I can see him jumping into the race, though I see him as a second tier candidate.
How do I rank the Democrats?
Top tier candidates: Betty Castor, Jim Davis, Alex Sink
Second tier: Peter Deutsch, Daryl Jones
I doubt they’ll run: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Robert Wexler, Allen Boyd, Ron Klein, Kathy Castor
Ranking the Republicans.
Top tier: Marco Rubio, Bill McCollum
Second tier: Connie Mack IV, Jeff Kottkamp, John Mica, Joe Scarborough
I doubt they’ll run (or announced they won’t): Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, Toni Jennings, Katherine Harris (please let her not run. I don’t want to see her again)
If the election were held today:
I see Marco Rubio defeating Jim Davis 53 – 46.
More to come . . .