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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida GOP establishment ignores Trump mojo

Donald Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, speaks during a campaign event at South Point Arena in Las Vegas on Monday.

New York Times

Donald Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, speaks during a campaign event at South Point Arena in Las Vegas on Monday.

23

February

It's no surprise that a small army of former Jeb Bush supporters in Florida is shifting support to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. What's remarkable is that exactly two Florida legislators — state Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and John Tobia of Melbourne Beach — are publicly supporting Donald Trump, the guy overwhelmingly winning over Florida Republican voters in recent polls and likely to be the Republican presidential nominee. That reflects not just longstanding relationships in Florida politics, but also GOP leaders being out of touch with so many of their own constituents. And it makes awkward positioning for ambitious Republicans either in or considering high profile political races.

"It would be very safe to just fall in line and get behind Marco Rubio," said U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, who is running for U.S. Senate and has not decided whether to support Rubio or Trump. "But we have to recognize what we are seeing in the polls is real. The voters are speaking, and Trump is  resonating."

Gov. Rick Scott has already all but endorsed Trump in a gushing USA today op ed. Others considering, or at least not yet ruling out, Trump endorsements include Attorney General Pam Bondi (her mother attended Trump's recent rally in Tampa) and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but the overwhelmingly majority of Republican legislators are steering clear of Trump.

"We are the establishment and embody everything that is wrong with the process. Inherently we fear the unknown," Tobia said of colleagues reluctant to embrace the frontrunner promising to shake up with establishment. "Mr. Trump is an honest, straight-speaking, results-oriented individual. These traits, while valued by the electorate, are foreign to us."

More to come...

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 4:11pm]

    

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