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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mel Sembler: 'I don't understand our country any more'



St. Petersburg shopping center developer Mel Sembler, a former ambassador, former RNC finance chairman and board member of the pro-Jeb Bush super PAC Right to Rise, today, like many of America's most elite Republican money raisers, is decompressing. Their candidate, Jeb Bush, has suspended his campaign, and now they are thinking about what's next and maybe also what might have been.

"Times have changed, the country has changed, the electorate has changed," said Sembler, who senses Donald Trump has an excellent chance of being the next nominee for the Republican Party that Sembler has helped build over many decades. "I don't understand our country any more,"

Sembler said he hopes Marco Rubio wins the nomination, but he plans to focus his energy this year on defeating assorted marijuanalegalization initiatives in Florida and elsewhere. Rubio could pull it off, but only if the GOP field clears, Sembler said, and at this point Rubio's path to the nomination is not clearer than John Kasich's or Ted Cruz.

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

"I kept telling myself that won't happen, that can't happen.... I now fear it may happen," said Sembler.

He couldn't say how he would vote if it comes down to Trump and Clinton. "I don't think I could vote for Hillary, but I'd have to give serious thought to that one,.

As for Bush, Sembler remains as convinced as ever he would have been a great president.

"He would have been a wonderful president, but he is what he is — He's an introvert," Sembler said.

[Last modified: Sunday, February 21, 2016 2:43pm]


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