Insider Poll: Bush stronger against Hillary, Fla primary likely Bush v. Rubio
Fact: It's virtually impossible for Republicans to win the White House if they fail to win Florida's 29 electoral votes. Fact: Florida, for the first time ever, has two leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Marco Rubio. who is expected to make his candidacy official Monday and Jeb, Bush, who seems happy to pretend he hasn't already decided while he continues to raise tens of millions of dollars for his candidacy.
A crucial question, then, is whether Bush or Rubio is more likely to win Florida against Hillary Clinton. We turned to more than 130 savvy Florida political players to weigh in, and the answer from the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll was not even a close call.
More than 78 percent of our Florida Insiders said Bush would be the stronger candidate against Clinton in Florida. These are political consultants, fundraisers, lobbyists, academics, and the like who know both Rubio and Bush better than the vast majority of Americans. But the survey is entirely unscientific and our sample loaded with people who have previously worked for Gov. Bush or are currently actively supporting him.
"Most FL Republican heavyweights are supporting Jeb and see Marco running against him as an act of disloyalty towards his mentor. It will complicate possible future aspirations in FL, should he not win," said one Republican.
Lamented another: "Since his 2010 win, (Rubio) seems to have largely ignored his Florida base and continued campaigning nationwide utilizing the same plan and speeches he has employed since 2009 - now with the addition a foreign policy component. He was among the brightest stars for GOP future and should stay in the Senate although he will no doubt opt out. So many, including me, were huge fans and feel let down as the Senate seems to have been a short layover marked by a lack of achievement on the way to another goal."
And another: "Rubio excels in the position of underdog. All of those who are discounting him are forgetting 2010 and doing so to their own detriment. Jeb hasn't run for any office in over 10 years and the Bush fatigue is still strong. He has skeletons Rubio doesn't have. Rubio is a young, fresh faced , Hispanic Republican with an all-American story and a beautiful family. He could very well be seen by some as a Republican version of JFK who could bring Camelot back to the White House. The charm and appeal of that can't be dismissed."
Our Insiders do not take Clinton for granted. More than 72 percent said she has a strong chance to win Florida in the general election, including 57 percent of our Republican Insiders.
"I have seen the relationship she has with Florida voters first hand," a Democrat said. "The passionate support she has is stronger than either Jeb or Rubio inspire from their base."
From a Republican: "No matter the GOP nominee -- Florida will never move out of the toss up column in 2016. In the end Jeb or Rubio would carry Florida over Hillary .....Anyone else on the GOP side and Florida goes blue when all said and done."
Florida's presidential primary is nearly a year away, but our Insiders have sufficient confidence in the political skills and strength of Rubio and Bush that most think both will still be in the race by the time Florida holds its primary in mid March. Sixty-three percent predict that Rubio will still be running for the nomination then - 56 percent of the Republicans surveyed - and 93 percent think Bush will be - 100 percent of the Republicans surveyed.
Rubio has until May 2016 to decide for sure whether to seek another term in the U.S. Senate but has said repeatedly that if he runs for president he would forego a second senate term. Still, 38 percent of the Insider Poll participants predicted Rubio would run for senate again if his presidential campaign doesn't work out.
"What the hell is wrong w/ these Fla GOP Senators, can't we keep one past two terms? Mack, Mel, Marco all G O N E. If the job is that bad why do they run in the first place?," asked a Republican. "Marco needs to stay put, let Adam (Putnam) be Governor, or send (Jeff) Atwater to the Senate. Alternatively Marco can go back to Dade County and be a dad (a noble profession)."
Nearly 80 percent said that Rubio will run for governor in 2016 if he is not elected Republican, and many think that's the real game plan.
"Rubio is not enamored with the Senate and is looking to get out," a Republican said. "His efforts are a way for him to remain relevant on the national level, keep his name out there so to speak, and then run for governor. He is lacking in serious executive experience in order to run for president, which being governor of the 3rd largest state would greatly help him with."
Participants in our latest Florida Insider poll include 75 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 11 people registered to neither major party. They are:
Ana Cruz, Bob Poe, Kelly Cohen, Michael Albetta, Christina Johnson, David Aronberg, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Ana Navarro, Chris Kise, Cindy Graves, Bud Shorstein, Towson Fraser, Eric Jotkoff, Cory Tilley, Eric Johnson, Aubrey Jewett, Frank Tsamoutales, Husein Cumber, Jim Rimes, Kevin Cate, Stephen Shiver, Nancy Watkins, Rockie Pennington, Bernie Campbell, Monica Russo, Andy Ford, Justin Day, Susannah Randolph, Christian Camara, Dean Cannon, Rick Wilson, Stephen Bittel, Scott Arceneaux, Zach Zachariah, Ron Sachs, Jamie Wilson, Sarah Rumpf, Hayden Dempsey, Roger Stone, Jeff Johnson, Kristy Campbell, Ryan Wiggins, Anthony Pedicini, Kathy Mears, Jackie Lee, Meredith Orourke, Seth Mckee, Fred Piccolo, Ryan Tyson, Mark Ferrulo, Joe Perry, Dave Karvelas, Brian Ballard, Matthew Corrigan, Julia Gill Woodward, Alan Clendenin, Ron Greenstein, Pat Neal, Nancy McGowan, Mark Zubaly Brad Coker, Pablo Diaz, Richard DeNapoli, Dan Smith, Jennifer Green, Nikki Lowrey, Scott Peelen, Steve Geller, Ann Herberger, Doc Dockery, Nels Kingston, Davod Bishop, Steve Schale, Steve Uhlelder, Paula Dockery, David Colburn, Rich Heffley, Mac Stipanovich, Darrick McGhee, James Harris, Karen Unger, Frank Mirabella, Alex Sink, Alex Patton, Martion Hammer, Jason Unger, Nick Hansen, Jason Roth, Ellen Freidin, John French, Rodney Barreto, Marty Fiorentino, Arlene DiBenigno, Ron Gunzberger, Marc Reichelderfer, Susie Wiles, Trey Stapleton, Damien Filer, Andrew Gillum, Robert Coker, John Morgan, John Stemberger, Steve Schale, Bob Graham, Erik Kirk, Fred Karlinsky, Millie Herrera, Mike Hana, Darryl Paulson, Abel Harding, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Stafford Jones, John Wehrung, Kevin King, Jim Kitchens, Mike Hamby, Greg Truax, Kathleen Shanahan, Peter Antonacci, Mark Guzzetta, Jamie Miller, Mitch Ceasar, Barry Edwards, Karl Koch, Stephanie Kunkel.