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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The Col. v. the "Tallahassee triplets: The case for GOP Senate candidate Mike McCalister




The campaign for underdog Republican U.S. Senate candidate Col. Mike McCalister argues that his speech to the the Republican Leadership Conference last weekend, shown above, marked his national debut and the start of a surging grass roots campaign. The campaign now includes some experiences political hands, Buzz Jacobs, who was John McCain's Florida-based southeast regional director in 2008 and John Yob, who advised Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rick Snyder in Michigan. What follows (see here and attached below) is a strategy memo Jacobs and Yob wrote up for key potential supporters:

We are confident that Florida Republicans are ready to send another hard charging, conservative Colonel to join Allen West in Washington, D.C. In this political environment, conservatives in the Sunshine State will nominate the candidate least aligned with Tallahassee and Washington special interests. McCalister’s 33 years of service to our Nation, conservative policy positions, education, and experiences in the private sector make him a highly electable and qualified candidate for United States (U.S.) Senate.


Given much of the mainstream media’s resistance to Colonel McCalister’s campaign, we were seeking a national audience, un-biased to the ways of insider Florida politics, to help the Colonel breakthrough in a big way. That opportunity came last week, when we talked with the Republican Leadership Conference (RLC). They heard that Colonel McCalister was inspiring grassroots Tea Party and Republican groups across Florida, and agreed to give him a prime speaking slot on national TV, right before Rick Perry’s speech and before the straw poll results were announced. The result was a grand slam speech that many attendees said was the best of the conference and included EIGHT standing ovations. Please take a moment to watch his speech at and read influential conservative blogger, Javier Manjarres’, article at The Republican Leadership Conference will go down in the election cycle history books as the national debut of the new Tea Party star of 2012: Colonel Mike McCalister.


Before 2010, campaigns were mostly won and financed by large donation bundlers who, essentially, participated in shadow primaries to award establishment support to a candidate. The candidate who won the bundlers’ support usually became the nominee of the Party. This all changed in 2010, when the candidates who won primaries across the country were those that inspired small dollar contributors. These candidates raised millions through effective Internet and direct mail campaigns.

Colonel McCalister is well positioned to tap into the same anti-establishment discontent that will plague the campaigns of the Tallahassee Triplets: Mike Haridopolos, George LeMieux, and Adam Hasner. The Colonel’s opponents, by definition, are political insiders. Mike Haridopolos is the sitting Senate President. Adam Hasner was Majority Leader of the Florida House. George LeMieux was appointed to the Senate by Charlie Crist. Being elected or appointed to every one 2 of these positions requires years of political deal making. Conservatives who want to break the status quo aren’t going to send a political insider to Washington when they can choose a hard charging Colonel who will take on the political establishment.

Polling Indicates the Race is Wide Open

There is no clear leader in the Republican U.S. Senate Primary in Florida. Two recent polls (Sunshine State Communications, 5/12-13/11, and Quinnipiac University, 5/17-23/11) indicate that about two thirds of likely GOP Primary voters are undecided. We anticipate that it will be well into next year until a leader emerges in the U.S. Senate Primary race. This will give Colonel McCalister the time to turn his strong Tea Party grassroots support into a small dollar donor machine that will have the resources and volunteers to compete with the Tallahassee Triplets.

The Heart and Soul of the GOP – Conservative Grassroots

McCalister is positioned to win substantial support among key conservative grassroots constituencies, including, but not limited to Florida Tea Party supporters, Florida 9/12 Project leaders, County Republican Executive Committee members, 2nd Amendment supporters, small business owners, and social conservatives. His 33 years of service to our country as a member of the military, experience in the private sector, and conservative policy positions will continue to resonate with Republican Primary voters. Simply put, we believe Florida Republicans are ready to send another Colonel to join Allen West in Washington. Floridians will see that Mike McCalister is the real deal. His growing support among Florida’s conservative grassroots leaders will, ultimately, position him to be the recipient of enough small dollar contributions to challenge one of the Tallahassee Triplets for the nomination.

McCalister’s biggest challenger for grassroots support and small donations is Adam Hasner. However, we are confident that in this environment, voters will ultimately choose a conservative, retired military Colonel over a three term state legislator who took hundreds of thousands of dollars in special interest money while in Tallahassee and co-sponsored a cap and tax law.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard from several sources that Mike Haridopolos’ failure to pass an immigration bill, minimal support for Gov. Scott’s tax cutting agenda, authoring of the $150,000 “Book to Nowhere,” and failure to forthrightly answer a radio host’s question regarding the Paul Ryan Medicare plan have hurt him among key grassroots constituencies. Finally, it’s no secret that George LeMieux’s service as Charlie Crist’s “maestro” has created, among Florida conservative leaders, a level of distrust that will be hard to overcome.

The Big Dollar Special Interest Money Battle

Mike Haridopolos and George LeMieux will be the leading contenders for high dollar special interest donations. Given Haridopolos’ position as Senate President, he will most likely win this fight. No one can curry favor with lobbyists and big companies like a sitting Senate President (that’s why he’s already raised over $2.5 million). With the special interest in his corner, he will most likely have a monetary advantage throughout the campaign. However, the Tallahassee cash infusion will be vulnerability in an anti-lobbyist, anti-bailout, and anti-special interest 3 environment. It will be difficult for Haridopolos to claim that he will challenge the status quo in Washington, when his campaign is being funded by big money special interests. His campaign will eventually drown on the weight of his own fundraising “success.”

During his time in Tallahassee as Crist’s political advisor, George LeMieux formed substantial and deep ties to big business lobbyists. Additionally, LeMieux’s time as Charlie Crist’s appointment to the U.S. Senate provided him a prime opportunity to form relationships with Washington’s lobbying corp. This will undoubtedly give him an edge on raising big money from special interests. But, in our view, all the money in the world won’t be able to help LeMieux mend fences with the countless conservatives that feel betrayed by Charlie Crist.

Even though Adam Hasner has previously been the recipient of substantial sums of special interest money (he raised over $1 million as a State Representative) it is unlikely that big money lobbyists will flock to his campaign now that his term has expired. However, there is a possibility that the Hasners may self-fund Adam’s primary campaign, given that their family reportedly earned nearly $1 million from Meg Whitman’s failed California gubernatorial bid. Based on our collective experiences, we believe Mike is well positioned to raise substantial sums from like-minded conservatives who want to ensure Washington elites know 2010 was not an anomaly (i.e., the same small donors who funded West in Florida, Angle in Nevada, O’Donnell in Delaware, and other Tea Party-backed candidates across the country).

However, we do not anticipate raising substantial dollars until the fourth quarter of this year – after the official campaign announcement in July of 2011. During the third quarter, we will focus on building the necessary infrastructure to support a robust small dollar fundraising operation.


With over a year until the Florida Primary election, the campaign will has plenty of time to structure a well-organized effort that can effectively communicate the Colonel’s message to voters throughout Florida. We believe he has several advantages, including: ***As the only true conservative outsider in the race for U.S. Senate, he is well positioned to win votes in an anti-insider environment. Mike Haridopolos, George LeMieux, and Adam Hasner, by definition, are political insiders who have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in special interest money. Conservatives who want to break the status quo aren’t going to send a political insider to Washington. Doing so would defy common sense.

***As a retired Colonel with 33 years of service, he is well positioned to build support among Florida’s 1.65 million Veterans. No one in this race can identify with Veterans better than McCalister. The Colonel is the only candidate in the Republican Primary to have worn the uniform of the United States Army. He best understands the sacrifices and challenges of our military members and their families, no matter their race or religion. This gives him the opportunity to establish a repertoire with thousands of Veterans (and their families) in every corner of the state – from Miami to Pensacola. 4  Republicans want another hard charging military Colonel who understands our national security apparatus. The success of Congressman and retired Lt. Colonel Allen West has paved the way for Colonel McCalister. Overnight, Congressman West’s hard charging style has resonated with conservatives in Florida and across the country. He has, most recently, proven that a retired military leader can instantly be a force for change in Washington.

***Military and private sector work gives McCalister the most relevant experience of any candidate in the race. As a retired Army Colonel and businessman with a PhD, he is the most qualified candidate to oversee our economic recovery, America’s armed forces, and foreign policy. He is a highly seasoned professional possessing a rare combination of skill sets, real world experience, education, and expertise in the key areas of national security policy, the economy, education, healthcare, agriculture, and communications. Not only do these experiences make him the most qualified candidate, they may make him the only Republican candidate that can go head-to-head against Bill Nelson.

***Colonel McCalister is the only candidate to have been on the statewide ballot. The Colonel received more statewide votes than any other GOP Primary candidate currently in the race. Although he ran a shoestring campaign and entered the race with only 55 days left, he managed to earn the votes of 130,991 Republicans. He earned 10.1% of the Republican Primary vote in 2010. That’s a good foundation from which to build a 2012 campaign for Senate. A sizeable chunk of voters have already proven that they are open to voting for McCalister.

***Colonel McCalister is the only candidate with real-world business experience. He worked for biotech and healthcare companies to improve efficiencies in the healthcare system. Additionally, he is the only candidate with a detailed plan, which has been endorsed by highly credentialed experts, to improve Florida’s economy and create jobs. He is also an entrepreneur, having started a tree farm in Plant City.

***Colonel McCalister is the most qualified candidate to challenge Barack Obama’s biggest fan in Florida, Bill Nelson. In addition to being the anti-status quo candidate in an anti-insider political environment, the Colonel is the only candidate to have served in the military. In order to have our best chance at victory, the Republican Party needs to nominate a candidate who can go head-to-head with Bill Nelson on economic and national security issues, has served in the military (like Bill Nelson has), and can most effectively challenge Bill Nelson’s insider status (he was first elected to office in 1972).

Once the large number of undecided voters in the race have reviewed the qualifications and experience of all the candidates, we believe, for the reasons outlined above, that voters will ultimately pick the hard charging Colonel over the Tallahassee Triplets.

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 9:19pm]


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