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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Voices from the Florida Insider Poll: 'Wake me up from this nightmare'



Here's what the Florida Insiders participating in our latest Florida Insider Poll had to say about the state of the presidential campaign in Florida and beyond and Florida's U.S. Senate race. Most of the responses came Wednesday, the day after the latest presidential debate:

Democrat: Donald Trump attracted 13,000 republicans to his Sarasota event. Jeb! and Marco combined didn't come close to that number in their hometown of Miami-Dade. That says it all.

Republican: Marco is a closer and is ready to strike as soon as the lead horse stumbles on his hairdo. 

Rep: We need to look at the primary schedule rather than just the national polling to see who is going to win the nomination, and right now it still looks like Trump.  Republicans have a history of backing the early 2008 and 2012 McCain and Romney basically locked it up after winning Florida, the 4th state to vote.  Democrats, on the other hand, seem to care little who has the "momentum" -- see 2008 when Hillary v Obama went all the way down to the wire.  When you look at the February map, it looks like a Cruz/Trump battle in Iowa, a Trump/possible Christie or Rubio battle in NH, Trump dominating South Carolina, and old polling data from October showing Trump up in Nevada.  On March 1 is the "SEC primary" of 14 states which seems to favor Cruz and Trump.  The question is, after 18 primaries/caucuses, can Jeb or Rubio survive without amassing any/some delegates?  I think not.  Just look at the Giuliani strategy how he banked it all on Florida and how he ended up.  Jeb and Rubio have to show some strength in these early contests or they will be written off by the time Florida rolls around.  Expect either of or both Rubio or Jeb to drop out before the Florida vote if polling shows them weak in Florida as of March 2nd after the SEC primary.  Since Jeb and Rubio pull from the same voters in Florida, I doubt either of them would win Florida if they are both still in the race by then since they cancel each other out.  I bet the FL Legislature is now wishing they had scheduled Florida earlier as a proportional state rather than a winner take all.  It's possible that Florida becomes irrelevant.  The nominee will likely be Trump so long as there are still 9 main candidates chewing up the votes.  That's the big question...will there still be 9 main candidates by the time Florida rolls around.  If there are still 9 running, then Trump wins.  If there are only 3 or so main candidates left, well that's a different story.  As of now, Trump wins, barring the "brokered convention" speculation.  If there are only 3 or 4 candidates left come Florida, then I don't believe Trump wins Florida or the nomination.  If the RNC wants to "dump Trump" they need to lean on these other candidates to drop out immediately after Iowa and New Hampshire, assuming Trump doesn't win both of those.

Rep: Jeb got a good bump last night. My suggestion to him was to take on Trump; go to his podium and beat the snot out of him; then tackle him and bite off part of his ear. Okay, exaggerating, but he impressed me going after him! Weatherford wins the Senate seat if he runs.

Dem: The divided GOP is allowing Trump to sail through. The GOP primary has pulled the curtain back on what the party truly represents. This will create an opportunity in Florida for down ballot victories in swing districts and the U.S. Senate seat. 

Rep: Jeb is in no way out of the running for the GOP nomination.  You guys (meaning the press) want this tied up in a nice little box, it won't be.  NH voters typically don't make up their mind until the last week and the last 72 hours.  In Iowa if you do not have a ground game you cannot win.  This is still a very fluid race.

Dem: Trump's persistant strength and ability to tap into the same anger as the tea party about racial change, societal change and government's failure give him strong support that defies the rational arguments of the rest of the field. 

Dem: I have one Christmas wish. Can we have a better group of people running for President!!!

Dem: Trump's performance in the last debate (last night) was downright scary. As a democrat, I never thought I would say this but I agree with Jeb Bush. Trump's policies are serious proposals. On the Senate race, it is entirely possible that Alan Grayson doesn't make it to the primary election. His fundraising is floundering, his staff are jumping ship and each week we are learning about another example of his hypocritical and unethical ways. 

Rep: FL will be close, but the fundamentals still favor the Democrats AND the damage Trump has caused the party among non-white voters is not repairable.   Thanks Trump! 

Dem: I have no confidence in any of my selections.  The whole primary is a crap shoot

Dem: At this point in time, any insider, who is confident about their predictions, has a bad case of hubris. 

Rep: The breakup of the Rubio-Bush Bromance has been fascinating to watch and would make for an interesting episode of Maury Povich. Honestly, at this point, people have to start asking - Is Jeb running to win or to block Rubio out of spite?

Dem: Cruz seems to have taken the space Marco needs to be in, and I think he wins SC & goes on to a big March.For Jeb, 27 contests take place between SC & Fl.  Whoever has momentum after SC will likely be the nominee. Hard to see him hold on through 27 states for Florida, and risk an embarrassing loss.  Trump obviously is the great unknown. But he's got to get a win. Maybe NH? But if not, SC becomes his Waterloo. With so many 3/1 states that look like SC, whoever wins there will have a ton of momentum. This is the issue with the Rubio strategy. Primaries are all about momentum after a certain point. I do think he's more likely to win Fla, because l think he will win some states.  But like Trump, I think he has to win SC -- but if Cruz wins Iowa, he'll be in a strong SC position. Changing my view on Grayson.  He's such a disaster that he can't even build a functioning campaign.

Rep: I think in the history of American politics this will be the most analyzed and written about campaign ever. Since there appears to be no rhyme nor reason to voters.

Dem: As a Democrat I feel as qualified to comment on the GOP as I would the electoral future of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan. 

Rep: Jeb was very strong last night.  As strong as he should have been on day one.  I'm hopeful it won't be too little too late.

Rep: To be honest, I have no idea who will win the Florida rid a primary or the nomination.  I think that will be determined by events between now and Election Day.  Florida does have a history of following rather than leading election results.  Whoever wins in New Hamshire is likely to win in Florida.  

Dem: Bush will save face, bemoan the state of the GOP, try to assume statesman role.

Rep: The Golden Rule of campaigns is "voters are idiots" and Trump will prove that in the Primary, then Hillary will prove it in the General.

Rep: The last three R candidates standing will be Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio. The Republicans will definitely take back the White House in '16. George LeMieux is wrong about HIllary taking Florida in the General.I think that Gov. Bush should reflect on his options and gracefully bow out. Then he could continue to be a statesman for the party.

Dem: Jeb needed a big night at the debate...he gave it a good shot, but it just wasn't enough. The race is coming down to Trump, Cruz, And Rubio in that order.

Dem: Murphy versus Desantis would be the dream for democrats.  While their nightmare scenario is Grayson versus Jolly.  While Grayson likely would lose to any GOP candidate, the more moderate Jolly would destroy Grayson in all but the most democratic counties. Jeb Bush may opt to stay in till Florida regardless of the other primaries, hoping to use the Super Tuesday states and Florida as a chance to bounce back.  However Rubio is more likely to win Florida than Jeb at this point.

NPA: Republicans are headed for Chaos.   Dems will unite around Clinton. Hispanic vote will help Ds win state.

Rep: Jeb is the adult in the room. Once everyone gets their wailing and gnashing of teeth out of their systems, they'll take a deep breath, pull themselves together and vote for him, the guy who has the record, disposition, vision, brains, and ability to beat Hillary to be Commander in Chief. 

Rep: I still hold out hope for Jeb. In Tuesday's debate, he showed his willingness to fight. Trump will fade. Trump is like the TV show you thought was amazing as a kid but is stupid when you watch it as an adult. The question is how soon Trump's supporters grow-up. 

Rep: It looks like Trump wins the nomination, but this race is so unconventional, it's impossible to tell.  Frankly, I don't believe my own eyes when it comes to Trump's poll numbers.And even though Trump is down 10% to HRC in the general, I think she's very beatable, even by Trump.  Trump likes to win ya know :)

Rep: Jeb Bush proved last night that the joyful tortoise can get feisty when faced with the idiot savant. Expect happy donors and supporters heading into 2016, when it really counts. 

Dem: Jeb Bush may not make it to Florida's Presidential Preference Primary.  He has already spent $50,000,000 and his polling numbers have tanked.  The picture of the near empty room at his headquarters debate watch party during the Las Vegas debate was very telling.

Dem: I have changed my mind after the last debate, and no longer see a path to victory for Jeb in Florida with the field split so many ways. He's already spending big -- we're seeing pro-Jeb mail hitting the doors already -- but others (Trump, Cruz, Rubio) will have the momentum/funding to compete and beat a guy who hasn't been on the ballot here in over a decade. Still see DeSantis as the only GOP Senate contender building momentum, and more importantly, a warchest.

Rep: As crazy as it sounds Trump wins Florida, Marco wins Nomination, Welcome to Insanity 2016!!

Dem: I don't believe the Republican race for President is close to being decided, despite the polls and the prognosticators. Jeb Bush demonstrated his experience and effectiveness as a leader last evening in the debates. People will eventually tire of the jibberish from Trump, Cruz and Rubio and realize the party needs someone with mature leadership skills to offer it any hope of winning in November 2016.

Rep: Although Governor Bush is polling very low, I do believe he is committed to the end and his funding keeps him relevant. Trump's high polling still baffles me. I figured the buzz would diminish but it has not. Its concerning that the supporters of his campaign are comfortable with the belief that he is the best nominee for the party and the best candidate to be president.

Rep: Sad to see what's happened to Jeb.  He's a long way from the confident governor we know.  He started off as a happy warrior, but getting tagged with the "low energy guy" morphed him into a guy who seems uncomfortable in his own skin. I think Marco will carry Florida in the general but won't have the coattails to win the senate for the GOP, not unlike Bush and Nelson in 2000.

Rep: The presidential race is still a mess, but as we get closer it's becoming a 3 man race. Carson has faded in oblivion and it has left us with Trump, Cruz, Rubio and maybe Christie (who's trending up in NH, but has not real path after that.) Unfortunately, Jeb hasn't caught on and there seems to be no way forward for him even with the continued air cover from R2R. As we get closer to Iowa, Trump's numbers will come back to earth and Cruz and Rubio will be the last two standing down the stretch. As we saw in last night's debate, they are essentially arguing over the future of the GOP and I think when presented with that choice the party will side with Marco because he is the stronger of the two on national security. In the Senate race, Murphy has the inside track to the Democratic nomination and DeSantis has it on the Republican side. Even with all the turmoil amongst his staff, Grayson should not be counted out just yet either. Residual name ID and ability to raise small dollar donations will keep him viable until the primary. That being said, I still believe that this field isn't settled and is primed for a self funder to get in and throw this race for a loop.  As of yet, no campaign (on either side) has put together a substantial enough fundraising quarter to prove they can run a statewide campaign for primary victory. 

Rep: As long as Floridians are frightened of terrorist attack  and economic slowdown GOP will hold the Congress and pick up White House.

Rep: Typical Pundit projections are out the Window...nobody knows!!

Rep: The Republican field remains crowded and nothing last night should have changed the top two contenders, Donald Trump & Ted Cruz. Assuming Ted Cruz wins Iowa & Trump continues his double-digit dominance in both New Hampshire & South Carolina, it's difficult to see who else but those two would win Florida with as strong as Cruz is performing in several of the March 1 states which includes Texas. ( for background only: our data as of last weekend had Trump at 30% of the likely primary Republicans in Florida, 12% over Rubio at 19% but we are in the field again tonight). On the issue of the general election.  No one should assume that Hillary Clinton is as safe a bet as they appear to believe.  She has high negatives and it will be hard to cast herself as a candidate of the common people the same way the President did so effectively. The wave of economic anxiety & demographic resentment that Trump is exploiting may be more predominant in the Republican party, but it exists elsewhere in the general electorate (albeit it at a lesser extent) as well. The bottom line is the 2016 general election is a political eternity away and I do not think the Democrats will be able to win this election on social justice issues alone, especially with so much economic & security anxiety in the nation. Just my take. 

Rep: GOP electorate seems hell bent on an outsider who is unelectable 

Rep: It's way to early to count out JEB. 

Dem: The candidate most like the last four to win open seats in the Senate by temperament and ideology is David Jolly and he has the added bonus of being from the vote rich I 4 corridor.

Dem: Alan Grayson casually gives people bizarre labels like "s*itting robot". Here's one for him: shameless hypocrite. Grayson routinely castigated the financial industry and foreign tax havens but managed off-shore hedge funds in the Caribbean. He attacked firms that profit from Iranian oil but invests in those same companies. Look for many Democrats to skip the U.S. Senate race on the November general election ballot if he somehow wins the nomination.....Jeb Bush has to make it though nearly 30 primaries or caucuses before he even gets to Florida. Unless he can unexpectedly break through with an early success in New Hampshire, South Carolina, or several of the March 1 states, it's hard to see how he will still be standing on the Ides of March. 

Rep: I keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare.

Rep: Jeb proved on Tuesday that he is a real contender in this campaign to win the nomination, right at the time when voters in the early states are starting to pay attention.

Rep: depends, seem like a better answer!   to all of these.   depends if Cruz has problem with revealing classified info, depends if Hilary gets indicted.   if trump fades, marco should win FL.  don't see Jeb recovering, sadly, too little too late.

NPA: Look for two especially capable  U.S. Senate candidates -- R David Jolly and  D Patrick Murphy --  to grapple  next November.  Republican candidates firmly hold an historical advantage in Florida Senate races during  presidential election years when no incumbent is running.  Like in 1980, 1988 and 2004, important in 2016 for a R Senate win in Florida will be long coattails of the  R  presidential candidate heading  the ticket,  like Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rep: Does Trump finally implode or do we have a brokered convention? We are currently and will continue to be in uncharted territory politically. Don't count on the expected to happen when it hasn't happened yet this cycle. 

Rep: All of this is nothing but a best guess. The 2015/2016 election season defies all conventional wisdom and will be a unique outcome in US political history.

Dem: Cruz would be palatable fallback to good portion of Trumpanistas. If Trump is nominee, Murphy wins Senate.

NPA: I've been very hesitant to acknowledge the viability of Rubio but with national security moving to the fore, this gives his chances a big boost.

 Dem: I've finally given up on Jeb.  $35 million on TV and he hasn't moved the needle.  Rubio is the only candidate on the stage at the last debate that actually looked like he could win the nomination.  Everything one else is just not inspiring or straight up crazy.  I just can't imagine they nominate a Cruz or Trump - who would have a slim to zero change of winning the general.

Rep: Hillary still has a long way to go to turn her "trust" numbers around. The US Senate seat is wide open which is why it could still be dominated by someone who self funds or an Atwater/Bondi type. The top four GOP candidates are, in no order, Rubio, Cruz, Trump and a combination of Kasich, Bush or Christie.  If one of the latter three wins New Hampshire, they have the opportunity to gain momentum until March 1.If Jeb wants to get back in the game, he needs to make big changes at the top by chopping off someone's head and rolling it down Main Street.  If he is too loyal to his long-time staff that has wasted more than $35 million, he probably doesn't have the backbone to be President.

Rep: This is just not Jeb's time, and he's beginning to understand this. His only hope to make a difference in the 2016 election -- and best Trump -- is to bow out soon and put his full weight behind Marco Rubio.

Rep: I expect three or four max to be in the Florida Primary. I fear Bush will be out by then especially if he loses South Carolina.   Leaving Florida and March 15 to be the deciding date of who the Republican nominee will be.

Dem: Politics is fill with strange and twisty roads. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of 2016 surprises yet. 

[Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2015 1:28pm]


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