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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Exclusive Fla Insider Poll: Who's the best VP choice? Not Marco Rubio

flpoll.Mitt Romney's smartest vice presidential choice would come from Florida, say an overwhelming number of more than 100 of Florida’s smartest politicos.

It’s not Marco Rubio, however. It’s Jeb Bush.

The ex-governor overwhelmingly topped the list in our latest Florida Insider Poll asking who would be the Mitt Romney's best choice for vice president. Thirty six percent of our participants - and nearly 47 percent of Republicans - named Bush as the top pick, while 15 percent named Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, 12 percent named New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and nearly 9 percent named Rubio. Among Republicans,  Rubio and Christie tied with 8 percent.

"Jeb Bush would be the best pick for Gov. Romney but I don't think he will pick him because I do not think he is self-assured enough to have Gov. Bush on the ticket," said one Republican. "The pity is ... that it would be a truly formidable ticket for the fall and could actually win. Gov. Bush would give Mitt much of the credibility he is lacking. But my question would be at what price to Gov. Bush?"

Gov. Bush has downplayed his interest or the likelihood of him winding up on the ticket, though he has not been nearly as Sherman-esque about it as, say Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ("If I thought that call was coming, I would disconnect the phone," Daniels said recently").

These are the political pros who best know the pros and cons of Bush and Rubio. Even if many doubt Bush will wind up on the ticket, the clear consensus in Florida political circles is that he's far and away the smartest pick for Romney.  

"Jeb is the best pick. However I don't realistically believe that will happen," another Republican said. "So best pick Jeb - but most realistic pick is probably Portman. Rubio needs a few more years in the Senate."

Other vice presidential prospects receiving multiple votes but less than 5 percent overall included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell,  South Dakota Sen. John Thune, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Indiana Gov. Daniels, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Mind you, these were not predictions of who will wind up on the ticket, but assessments of who would be the strongest choice.

Our periodic Florida Insider Poll is a measure of conventional wisdom among Florida's political elites — fundraisers, campaign operatives, lobbyists and the like — and is not scientific. This month's poll included 119 people, including 65 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 9 independents

Our insiders are not especially bullish on Romney's prospects in November, though they expect him to win Florida's 29 electoral votes.

While 55 percent of participants predicted he will win Florida - including 80 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats - nearly two thirds of respondents expect Obama to win a second term. That includes 96 percent of Democrats who participated and 42 percent of Republicans. When we last asked for that prediction in January, half of the Republican Insiders predicted Obama would win the overall election.

"If they can keep Jeb or Marco off the ballot then the Democrats have a chance in Florida," said one Democrat.

Said another: "I believe the President will lose Florida, but his campaign has opened up the map so much that he will still win reelection. He will do well in states like CO, AZ, VA, NM and they will put him over the 270 threshold."

Our latest Florida Insiders: Dylan Sumner, Dave Aronberg, Jim Kitchens, Jim Rimes, Bernie Campbell, Meredith O'rourke, Nancy McGowan, Bridget Nocco, Eric Johnson, Mike Hightower, Kathy Mears, Peter Schorsch, James Harris, Ben Pollara, John Rood, Damien Filer, David James, Ron Sachs, Dan Gelber, Donald Hinkle, Christina Johnson, Justin Day, Jeff Kottkamp, Towson Fraser, Jill Chamberlin, Susannah Randolph, John Stemberger, Eric Jotkoff, Ron Greenstein, Marion Hammer, Jackie Lee, Tom Tillison, Kevin Cate, Lucy Morgan, Robert Coker, Rich Heffley, Brian Seitchik, Joy-Ann Reid, Richard Swann, Roger Stone, Tre Evers, Cory Tilley, Abel Harding, Kirk Pepper, Sarah Rumpf, Tyler Hudson, Monica Russo, Steve Geller, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Betty Castor, David Johnson, Joe Perry, Mike Hamby, John French, Frank Tsamoutales, Ashley Walker, Alex Patton, Greg Turbeville, Henry Kelley, Screven Watson, Brecht Heuchan, Alex Heckler, Brian Ballard, Carlos Curbelo, Bud Shorstein, Apryl Marie Fogel, Dan McLaughlin, Joe Colutta, Stephen Shiver, Scott Arceneaux, Jamie Miller, Darryl Paulson, Brian Hughes, Mel Sembler, Cindy Graves, Rockie Pennington, Kathleen Shanahan, Amber Stoner, Bob Poe, Karen Unger, Jim Davis, Stephen Gaskill, Alex Burgos, Slater Bayliss, Tom Eldon, Andrew Gillum, Jim Greer, Sally Bradshaw, Andy Ford, Al Cardenas, Tom Lee, Greg Truax, Brett Doster, Susie Wiles, John Morgan, Mike Hanna, Dan Smith, Aubrey Jewett, Paul Bradshaw, Ellen Freidin, Marty Fiorentino, Cynthia Henderson, Marc Reichelderfer, Stephanie Kunkel, Dave Karvelas, Karl Koch, Jamie Wilson, Andrew Weinstein, Mark Ferrulo, Tim Baker, Ann Herberger, Kyra Jennings, John Dowless, Trey McCarley, Ana Navarro, Van Poole.

[Last modified: Monday, August 13, 2012 12:27pm]

    

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