With the new year started, campaign watchers have started keeping tabs on former Governor Jeb Bush. Will he or won’t he? (Run for the U.S. Senate that is).
The State of Sunshine takes a look at the impact of the decision. Today, Part II: He runs.
Given the impact of a Jeb Bush candidacy on other races in Florida, there is another impact that could be even more dramatic: the allocation of resources.
First, Jeb has the unique ability among Florida Republicans to raise money on a national level and national scale. Running for the United States Senate from Florida could cost $25 to $30 million, probably more for Jeb to fight off the “Bush-fatigue.” No other candidate in Florida could match Jeb’s ability to raise funds, something that should not be lost in the discussion.
With Governor Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum coasting to re-election, and no real reason to take on Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the bulk of Republican funding can go to elect Jeb or defend seats in the Florida Legislature. With national donors carrying more of Jeb’s weight, Florida donors will be free to write checks to state and local candidates.
There are two possible effects from the Democratic side. One option would be for the Democrats to write off the race entirely – not provide any substantial resources to the race. By conceding the race to Jeb, the Democrats would be able to allocate their more limited resources in others areas of the state and nation: attacking more vulnerable Republicans and taking open seats at the state and local level, building their bench for 2012 and beyond.
However, that won’t happen.
Instead, the Democrats will look to replicate their successes from 2008. We can expect significant appearances from President Barack Obama, both at Democratic fundraisers as well as public campaign appearances. The chance for the DNC to take out the last remaining Bush will be very tempting, and Harry Reid will likely make Florida his primary target for the 2010 cycle.
Money from the DSCC and DNC will pour into Florida, but the Florida Democratic Party will not be able to use it to bolster its state and local level operations. With Republican dominance at the state level, special interest groups and donors will continue to avoid the FDP.
Moreover, because the Democratic caucuses in the Florida Legislature do not designate leadership for future years, they don’t have anyone recruiting candidates or helping their candidates raise local funds.
What does it mean?
By firing all of their ammunition at Jeb, the Democrats are setting themselves up.
The Democrats will focus their attention on defeating Jeb, and Republicans will not need to spread the funds around as much in 2010, it sets up for an election that will shock the nation: Republican sweeps across the board.
Jeb will win the Senate seat, all Republicans will be re-elected, the GOP will gain seats in both the Florida House and Florida Senate, as well as at the local level. Without Obama on the ticket, and more importantly the Obama machine turning voters out, the Florida Democratic Party will flounder and lose more than anyone could expect, further decimating an already weak bench.
Moreover, there is another effect to consider: what it means to Charlie Crist himself.
The attention from the media and the Democrats will be squarely on Jeb. As a result, Crist not only coasts to re-election by 12 to 15% or more, he is set up for a run at the White House. He can leave Florida for fundraisers and other appearances as Governor, building a national network he will need for 2012. His popularity will remain higher than Jeb’s here, allowing him the freedom to continue his political career at the national level.
I would offer that a Jeb candidacy is probably the very best thing that could happen to Charlie Crist.
Part III of this series will look at what happens down the ticket if Jeb doesn’t run.