In case you missed the news today, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and Democrat Congressman Allen Boyd both announced today they will not enter the race for the open United States Senate being vacated by Senator Mel Martinez. Earlier this week, Tampa Mayor (and Democrat) Pam Iorio announced she is mulling a bid. So is Democrat Rick Dantzler, a former State Senator and Lieutenant Governor candidate.
What does this mean?
First, it means there are two Democrats from the I-4 corridor considering running. This is news as they are the first from this crucial swing area to announce even a hint at possibly running.
Second, it also means there are a lot of unkowns. Oh to be sure, the announced and potential candidates are well known in their own geographic areas and by we politicos who follow this kind of thing. But to the average voter across the state, they are as obscure as me.
Now, McCollum was not surprise to me. I’ve been saying for sometime that he would not get into the race. He is virtually assured of re-election, and truthfully there isn’t even a sniff of a viable opponent from the Democrats.
So here is what I see happening:
GOP: Crist v Bush
On the Republican side, you will see former Speaker Marco Rubio and Congressman Connie Mack jump into the race soon. You might see someone like former State Representative Dennis Ross or Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, names barely mentioned among political sites. Given how wide open this race is now, anyone with a solid base in a large metropolitan area becomes more viable.
But in reality, that won’t happen. Just like two years ago, the Republican base will be split: the “Bush” side will line up behind Rubio as they did Gallagher and the “Crist” side will line up behind Mack. Remember, the Connie Mack the Elder endorsed Crist during the gubernatorial primary.
The issue is even fuzzier: Rubio is affiliated with Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC – which is lead by Michael Steele. Steele is running for RNC Chairman, with the help of Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer. Greer is very much part of the “Crist” camp in the Florida GOP, and will likely be trying to help Mack.
Dems: Obama Team Split, But Hillary’s Could Be United
On the Democratic side, the only real potential that has not announced is Congressman Ron Klein. Klein would hurt Gelber significantly, and probably share votes with him. However, I don’t think Klein runs.
Now Congressman Kendrick Meek is making waves by bringing on some of Obama’s key players. However, State Senator Dan Gelber is in this race as well — and he has very close ties to Steve Schale, the former Florida director for the Obama campaign. I give most of the credit to Steve for how Obama won Florida – so his talent on Gelber’s campaign (which may or may not happen) would take away from Meek.
But Hillary had a strong organization here, and they will eagerly line up behind Iorio. If Obama’s talent is divided between Meek and Gelber, there is a wide opening for Iorio.
I think 2010 will be a bizarre year. There will not be a single strong Democrat running for Governor, Attorney General, or Commissioner of Agriculture. Therre won’t be a strong Republican running for CFO. The only state-wide race to see a true contest is the US Senate race.
Obama won’t be on the ticket, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee won’t have much money. The DSCC however will be flush with cash.
I think the Democratic race will be a close match between Iorio and Gelber, and the winner will defeat Rubio in the general election – giving the Democrats both Florida Senate seats and a filibuster proof majority in the United States Senate.