Sometimes it can be educational to look backwards and review what has transpired, especially when you have two elections so closely linked as Bill Nelson’s victories in 2000 and 2006.
First, let’s get into the Wayback Machine and travel back to 2000:
“For the good of the party,” Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher stepped out of the U.S. Senate race and into a spot he knows well: running for State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner. Appearing with Gov. Jeb Bush and Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas, Gallagher said Thursday he agreed to seek the state job to save the party from an ugly primary fight that could have left the Republican Senate nominee too battered to win in November. “I’m not saying I didn’t want to be a U.S. senator,” Gallagher said. “But you have to work with the party if you want to be successful.” (St. Petersburg Times — June 16, 2000)
Tom Gallagher, who had run several times statewide dropped out of the race for a little known Congressman from Orlando who was fresh off the highly unpopular impeachment proceedings. Perhaps allowing Gallagher to compete, or even backing Gallagher would have given the Republicans the Senate seat held by outgoing Senator Connie Mack.
Bill Nelson: 51.0%. Bill McCollum: 46.2% . In 2000, McCollum was the worst-performing Republican running statewide.
Now, let’s pile into the Wayback Machine and come forward to 2006:
[There] is a renewed effort to persuade Allan Bense to enter the race. The panic among Republicans over Harris’ pathetic campaign has grown, and there is a growing sense she must be taken out in the primary if she won’t get out herself. Let’s connect the dots. Gov. Jeb Bush, who refuses to run, says Bense would be “an outstanding candidate” and has “doubts” about whether Harris can beat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. … Prominent Republicans such as former Florida GOP chairman Al Cardenas say Harris should get out.(St. Petersburg Times — May 5, 2006)
Katherine Harris had won praise and admiration from many among the Republican base because of her high profile during the fallout from the 2000 presidential election. At one point from 2000 to 2002, she was able to raise more money for other candidates than almost any other Republican. Perhaps by backing and helping Katherine Harris, would have given the Republicans the Senate seat once held by former Senator Connie Mack.
Bill Nelson 60.3%. Katherine Harris 38.1%. In 2006, Katherine Harris was the worst-performing Republican running statewide.
Here is one possible conclusion: Governor Jeb Bush and the Republican Party of Florida got actively involved in both races – in the first to force a one candidate out, in the second to get one candidate in. In both races, the Republicans lost.
Now we know that liberals will say that Bill Nelson won these races, and that if the party had stayed out it would not have mattered. We disagree. It is entirely possible that if Bush and the party had stayed out, Nelson would have lost in either 2000 or 2006, and the United States Senate would be no worse than 50-50. Instead the Democrats now have control.
In the end, hindsight is 20-20. There really is know way to know what would have happened. But there is at least some question as to if the results of these races is purely coincidental or if there was some cause and effect involved.