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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Insider Poll: The end is near for Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, speaks at a campaign event in Rock Hill, S.C., on Thursday. South Carolina Republicans head to the polls on Saturday for their party's presidential primary.

Gabriella Demczuk | New York Times

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, speaks at a campaign event in Rock Hill, S.C., on Thursday. South Carolina Republicans head to the polls on Saturday for their party's presidential primary.



Florida's overwhelmingly pro Jeb Bush political establishment has lost confidence in the former governor's presidential campaign. 

More than six in 10 of the more than 130 veteran Florida politicos participating in the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll say  Bush should suspend his campaign if he finishes no better than fourth place in Saturday's South Carolina presidential primary. 

LIVE BLOG: Follow the latest reports from the campaign trail

"I love Jeb. It's over for him," said on Republican. "Time to rally around anyone but Trump."

"Bush is dead but his team is too stubborn to pull the plug," said another Republican. "If he doesn't leave the race and continues to nuke Marco, he might as well be working to elect Donald Trump."

JEBIO: More coverage of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio

Florida Insider Polls are unscientific surveys of Florida campaign professionals, fundraisers, lobbyists, and more. Participants include many current and former Bush aides and advisers, and the results throughout the year have tended to heavily favor the former governor. 

In April, 85 percent predicted he would win Florida's March 15 presidential primary. In December, when much of the political world nationally was writing him off, 29 percent predicted Bush would win. On Thurday, only 6 percent said they expected Bush to win Florida next month, though nearly 8 percent predicted he would wind up the nominee.

More than half doubted Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would still be actively campaigning by the time of Florida primary.

"Rubio will likely make it to Florida.  Not Bush.  He will drop out before suffering what would be an embarrassing defeat,"  said a Republican. "Rubio needs a strong showing in SC to raise money."

Less than 37 percent said that regardless of what happens in South Carolina Saturday Bush should continue campaigning at least until Florida votes.

"Jeb Bush has a successful Florida brand to protect. In this state, he remains a popular former governor who has huge political and governmental influence. Republican candidates clamor to have his endorsement and appearance in campaign advertisements," said a Democrat. "He still drives much of the policy discussion. Gov. Bush simply cannot risk undermining that strength with a poor showing in the Florida primary.

A registered independent said, "Jeb's  last stand is South Carolina. If he doesn't finish in the top three,  what credible case can he make to continue?  What would he say to the  big donors, who already  are anxious and edgy."

Nearly two thirds expect Donald Trump to win Florida's primary, and 29 percent expect Rubio will win March 15. More than 52 percent predicted Trump will be the nominee, 31 percent said Rubio, 9 percent said Ted Cruz.

On the Democratic side, 88 percent predicted Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, 5 percent predicted Bernie Sanders and 7 percent said someone else would be the Democratic nominee.

"Any projections as to the Democratic victor depend on the impact of the pending criminal investigation by the FBI, and the report of the Select Committee on Benghazi," a Republican said. "Ignoring those is like whistling past the graveyard."

About 92 percent predicted Clinton would win Florida, and nearly 8 percent said Sanders.

Among the Florida Insiders, the GOP race is the unpredictable one.

"Who would have ever thought that even Democrats would be feeling sorry for Jeb Bush. Alas, karma is a cruel mistress," a Democrat said.

This month's Florida Insiders included: Bob Poe, Gus Corbella, Cynthia Henderson, Don Hinkle, Allan Bense, Kathy Mears, Andy Ford Nancy McGowan, Fred Piccolo, Steve Geller, Bernie Campbell, Nick Hansen, Jim Smith, Chris Kise, Steve Uhlfelder, Javier Manjerres, Bill Lee, Mike Hightower, Jon Mills, Pat Roberts, Alan Clendenin, Marion Hammer, Jeff Johnson, Kevin Cate, Aubrey Jewett, Wayne Bertsch, Eric Jotkoff, Steven Schale, Dan Gelber, Scott Arceneaux, Roger Stone, Betty Castor, Chris Hand, Towson Fraser, Henry Kelley, Husein Cumber, Eric Johnson, Brian Crowley, John French, Sarah Rumpf, Stephen Shiver, Jason Unger, John Dowless, Eric Eikenberg, Kirk Fordham, Pablo Diaz, Christian Ziegler, Jason Roth, Ryan Tyson, Christian Camara, Seth McKee, Screven Watson, Mark Ferrulo, Rick Wilson, Marc Reichelderfer, Bud Shorstein, Greg C. Truax, Ashley Walker, Ellen Freidin, Jason Altmire, Alex Patton, Stafford Jones, Ana Navarro, Dean Cannon, Frank Tsamatoules, Damien Filer, Tony Hill, Mary Anne Carter, Dave Aronberg, Meredith ORourke, Sam Rashid, John Konkus, Mike Fasano, Derrick D. McGhee, Robin Rorapaugh, Jon Ausman, Alex Sink, Monica Russo, Stacy Ritter, Clarence McKee, Steven Vancore, Pete Mitchell, Ronly Marante, Brian Ballard, Justin Day, Erin VanSickle, Christina Johnson, Paul Mitchell, Mike Hanna, Richard DeNapoli, Jim Davis, John Wehrung, Tom Tillison, David Colburn, Jack Furnari, Susie Wiles, Cindy Graves, Doc Dockery, Darryl Paulson, Ryan Wiggins, Chester Spellman, Mike Hamby, Beth Leytham, Brad Coker, Abel Harding, Jamie Wilson, Caren Lobo, Matthew Isbell, Greg Turbeville, Travis Blanton, Alex Heckler, Peter Wallace, Robert Sparks, ,Susan Glickman, David Bishop, Fred Karlinsky, Robert Coker, Mark Zubaly.Zach Zacharia, Robert Wexler, Joe Griters, Ron Gunzburger, James Harris, Travis Blanton, Barry Edwards, Marty Fiorentino, Tom Scarritt, Andrew Weinstein, Gretchen Picotte.

[Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2016 11:51am]


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