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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Who will take on Rick Scott? Charlie Crist? Alex Sink? Jeremy Ring? Rod Smith? Dan Gelber?



HOLLYWOOD -- Forget Barack Obama. The fellow really firing up Florida Democrats is Rick Scott.

On Saturday, Democratic activists who gathered in Broward County for their annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising gala invoked the name of Florida's unpopular, hard-right governor at least as often as Obama.

"He's our number one supporter. What would we do without him?'' joked Ron Mills, president of the Dolphin Democrats club of south Florida. "You see the energy here? That's thanks to Rick Scott. We didn't have that in 2010."

In addition to helping Obama's re-election prospects in America's biggest battleground state, the backlash against Scott already is generating speculation about who will take him on 2014. Two widely expected challengers - former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink and south Florida state Sen. Jeremy Ring - mingled with party activists Saturday along with two other less certain prospects, state party chairman Rod Smith and former state Sen. Dan Gelber.

"When you have a governor with a 29 percent approval rating, I would imagine that there are a lot of people who will be interested in running,'' said Ring, 40, a wealthy former executive from Margate, dismissing the notion Democrats would clear the field for Sink as they did in 2010.

Other names, including former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and current mayors Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale and Buddy Dyer of Orlando, get tossed around, but besides Sink there is only one other person with a big statewide footprint.

"Charlie Crist is the wild card in this whole thing," said Democratic consultant Steve Schale, who led Obama's Florida campaign in 2008 and worked for Sink in 2010. "It's hard to say how Democrats would react to Crist switching parties, but if he was thinking about it I think he would find a base of support."

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[Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2011 9:36pm]


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