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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

What the Fla Insiders say: 'Bush campaign as joyous as Bataan Death March'



The Florida Insider Poll conducted earlier this week found a strong plurality of participants expect Jeb Bush to win the nomination, but that confidence in Bush dropping dramatically from just two months ago. Here are comments from that survey, but keep in mind they were made Monday and Tuesday - BEFORE Bush's widely panned debate performance Wednesday night.

Republican: Crazy cycle.  Florida's voter once again harmed by hairbrained schemes by Fl GOP to pick the winner with "all or none" delegates.  Bet that's a vote they wish they could pull back with Trump's ascent.

Rep: I am biased, but it is do or die time for the Bush campaign.  No matter the national resources, financial/manpower, etc., the sense of momentum needs to be generated amongst voters, and fast.  Otherwise, the stench of perennial middle of the road polling candidate will be nearly impossible to shake off.
That said, I still believe Gov. Bush has the best organization to effectively make it through March 15...and beyond.

Democrat: Donald Trump has become such a surreal factor in this election, that I can't reasonably make a prediction. As much as I want to discount him and hope that the Republican Party comes to their senses, he just brought on two seasoned Florida pros in Susie Wiles and Joe Gruters. At this point, I think he's going all the way. 

NPA/Other: A Trump/Rubio ticket would be the strongest slate the Repubicans could offer.

Rep: Jeb is the walking dead. All that money, no connection to the modern GOP. His campaign is as joyous as the Bataan Death March. It's going to be a bitter pill for the Jeb people to swallow that arrogance and get behind Rubio, but the sooner he does it, the better.

Rep: I never thought Jeb Bush was a "moderate" or "liberal" when he was Governor, but his positions on immigration and support for Common Core have just been too toxic for him to get any traction with Republican primary voters. Add in the weariness about another Bush/Clinton presidency, and that $100 million he raised could just as easily have been $100 billion for all the good it will do him.

Dem: Bush's comment about Rubio being the GOP Obama sounds like a he has conceded defeat.  Bush forgot Obama won twice and changed direction of country despite unified GOP opposition. Bush has spent too much time on Easy Street without having to actually work.  I cannot imagine Bush having the stamina or ability to handle l nine hours of hostile questions like Hillary Clinton did. Nor can I see Trump or Carson doing so.  Rubio has the stamina and ability to do so.

Rep: You never know with the Bushes but it appears the momentum has shifted to Rubio.  Trump has definitely landed some punches.

Rep: Jeb, this ain't your father's Republican Party. Hell, this isn't W's Republican Party, either! For many of us, it is nearly impossible to imagine what the future holds for the GOP.

Democrat: Gov. Bush, by far, is still the absolute class of the GOP field...and the person best prepared, experienced and capable of being President from Day One....for eight years. It's a long race -- and, in the end, I believe he will prevail.  Sound bites aren't his strength......Reliable leadership is....and that will become more apparent when the pretenders are falling by the wayside....and Trump has exhausted the public with his puffery, arrogance and misguided gambit of a campaign. 

Democrat: Jeb's in trouble, but he's not done yet.  He's got the money to make a run at this if he can figure out how to get out of his own way.  When he lost in 94 he came back in 98 as the new and improved Jeb, and people actually liked him.  He needs to find that Jeb and bring him back.  Just like in 12 when we had Gingrich, Bachman, Santorum, et al all spending time as the flavor of the month and then flaming out, Trump's shtick will eventually wear people out and they'll  look at their options.  The good news for Hillary is that Jeb will be so damaged by then (see; Romney, Mitt) that it'll be all but impossible for him to get back to the center.

Dem: Meanwhile the Rs are destroying their brand

Dem: By process of elimination its Jeb Bush and he is the only repulicant with the knowledge, background, and presence  to be a viable candidate and plausible President.

Rep: I've never seen anything like it in my political life.  Unless something happens that changes the minds of the GOP primary electorate, Trump will be the nominee and Hillary Clinton wins the general with a larger landslide than did Reagan had over Carter. What a mess for the Republican Party and they havn't a clue how to clean it up. 

Dem: Jeb's campaign is foundering, but if he can stay in the race and make a respectable showing, he still has a good chance of taking the nomination. He and Kasich are the smartest two in that group and the most electable in a general campaign. Republicans may (and I say may) come to their senses and recognize that. 
Marco Rubio is making himself the alternative to everyone else. That may be the key to surviving this brutal primary.

Rep: Once we get past all the theatrics - Jeb will emerge as the adult on the stage with in-depth positions on serious issues confronting most Americans.

Rep: Jeb is well positioned in the middle for the long haul of this race.

Rep: Any one of 5 candidates can win nomination as of today: trump, Carson, bush, rubio & Cruz. Least likely to make it to 3/15: rubio & Carson ...but certainly possible if they have resources to survive financially past SEC primary 
I believe that in a bush vs Cruz or trump homestretch, bush wins

Rep: Donald Trump may be enjoying the support of Floridians/voters who are nothing more than "reality TV" junkies. The same people who watch "housewives" or "teen moms".  Trump may think it is funny to lob insults, and get personal, but bottom line, I want a candidate who can actually get the work done, who won't delegate the work to minions.  Jeb Bush is someone who is wonky and who will be able to understand the process and get things done.

Rep: while I answered that I think jeb bush will be the eventual nominee, I can also see it going to marco. the key is that a mainstream candidate will be the eventual nominee for the Republicans. 

Rep: Trump is going to begin losing points in polls and will have a meltdown....I hope!

Rep: Still very volitale. If there were a choice of 'still to early to guess, I would have selected it. Jeb has had an awful past 7-10 days but still has the fundamentals of an infrastructure in his favor. Trump is starting to fade and his stichk is getting old - fast. Next debates are critical. 

Rep: Jeb's certainly had his share of bumbles on the campaign trail, and right now he has his loud detractors.  But, if you look at history you realize he is best positioned to win a primary in which Republicans after much whiny window shopping almost invariably choose a white male candidate over 55 from the Establishment wing. This seems to be encoded in the DNA of the GOP primary voter.  To believe otherwise is to believe 2016 is the year they break with tradition and choose a bomb thrower or an upstart.  Neither is likely.

Rep: Maybe I'm delusional, but I just have to believe voters will wake up and take this decision seriously at some point, and that means Jeb's prospects rise. 

Rep: Bush-Carson ticket... America will wake up by then...realizing altho the TV entertainer is unique as a candidate, source of many laughs as he beats down competitors vs. build up himself with mature, sound, do-able policies...and vote for someone who is fully competent to lead the Nation...

Rep: Listen -- all is not well in Jeb World right now. Plenty of eventual nominees were in trouble early: McCain and Mitt come immediately to mind. I do believe Jeb's team is refocusing on how to make his message appear to be more outside the DC bubble driven.  Trump will fade. It's already happening in Iowa. Marco has also been treated with kid gloves in the national media. Their full attention will knock some holes in his narrative. 

Rep: 70 percent of GOP wants someone other than Trump. Current polls reflect anger. When it's time to pick someone who can win, the insurgency will take a back seat to keeping Hillary out of the White House. That helps Jeb AND Marco. 

Rep: Every cycle becomes more wide open - media and polls driving the narrative right now .....when voters start casting ballots history shows Republicans get serious...that same history shows what will happen and after a long primary battle -  Governor Bush will emerge as the nominee ....He is easily the best positioned to pick up the pieces when Trump/Carson fade....give them both credit for early staying power .....but the Bush organization and resources will help him overcome the current leaders when it counts

Rep: Trump's candidacy will be like The Apprentice...lots of viewers but no awards.

Rep: Maybe I'm just not willing to give up on Jeb just yet.  It's still a long way until March and Jeb still has the Right to Rise Super PAC with  $100MM.  I'm much more concerned now though than I was a month ago about Jeb's campaign.  I expected Trump to fizzle but he's been on top for four months.  The problem is that with Marco in the race, Marco and Jeb are pulling votes from each other and neither seems able to break out.  But as long as they are both in the race and polling similarly it's unlikely that either drops out.  This stalemate might end both their campaigns but it's unlikely either will blink and drop out.

Rep: That media is even questioning whether or not Jeb Bush makes it to the March primary is laughable! Millions of dollars in the bank through the campaign and super PAC, paid field teams in the early states, and up on TV five months before Iowa is what it takes to win. No campaign with those kinds of resources is backing out. 

Rep: ......come on folks,(do the math) who wins Florida's primary? A realty star, a junior senator who hates his job, or the best governor the state has had in 30 years? X equals John Ellis Bush! 

Rep: Jeb is the only candidate that can beat Hillary. Proven leadership. 

Rep:   Florida has a long habit of laying "follow the leader," by voting for candidates like Gary Hart who had no campaign organization in the state.  I think Rubio, Trump or Carson could win Florida.  The best candidate is Bush in terms of political qualifications.  A conservative, take-charge governor who transformed the state and left with high ratings.  Although I believe Bush is the best of the field, it is increasingly unlikely he can win.  Conservatives have turned on Bush, and his campaign of running with joy has turned out to be a campaign or sorrow and disappointments.

Rep: As I say with all of these hypothicals, it's so early to predict any of this with any level of certainty. I think the best way to describe our primary right now is volatile and full of emotion. While I've heard that message loud and clear from voters, history still casts doubt on the notion of them going through with those impulses and nominating a Carson or even Trump as it would be an anomaly. Then again maybe we are in that kind of year. Who knows. 

However I do believe it's still early in the sense that ballots are not going to be cast for a few more months and the holidays are now upon us and we still haven't seen the substantial amounts of money that will eventually be spent on media from the field yet, and that's a fact that can't be ignored.  Again, we're dealing with a volatile electorate in our primary right now, attempting to predict their behavior right now is a futile excercise. Let's chat again in late January !!!

Dem: So much for Jeb's joyful campaign.  He is showing himself to be the spoiled, entitled brat he has always been.  

Dem: Really, at this point the answer to the strongest nominee is none of the above. The Trump show has taken the Party into the exact place smart Republicans had hoped to avoid. Now basically all their candidates are damaged goods. 

And with Hillary seemingly finding her footing right as the GOP implodes - I have to say, I am happy I make my living as a professional Democrat these days. And I feel bad for my friends in the other party because as a Florida Democrat, I know all too well what it feels like to live that kind of shit show. It isn't fun. So to all my Republican friends - I feel your pain. The next time we are out drinking, the first round is on me. 

Dem: Kasich stands out as the adult in the room, able to work with both parties.  Sane, experienced, and moderate; therefore, there is no way that he will be the Republican nominee.

Dem: But seriously, who the hell knows?  

Dem: When your nominee could be a Black man who is an embarrassment and the disdain of his own, pandering  to the people who hate his race...the GOP has a very serious problem.  We won't even talk about the racism associated with Trump's vitriol. The Republicans cannot accept the end of Whites controlling all aspects of American politics. 

Dem: At this point last cycle Cain was riding high and we would still go through two Gingrich surges and one Santorum before everyone settled back on Romney.  I have no reason to believe Republicans have changed their patterns.  Their hate for Hillary will bring everyone back to their senses at some point.  It's a roll of the dice between Bush, Kasich or Rubio for me at this point.

Dem: Never in my entire existence in political life have I answered a survey with less gut and absolutely zero confidence in my selections.    This Republican Primary reminds me of the Bar Scene in first Star Wars.   It's ugly and getting uglier.

Dem: You should start listing Mitt Romney as a choice.  I think the Repubs may be in such disarray they might go back and draft him!

NPA/Other: Jeb is just  being Jeb and that is not helping him.

Dem: Jeb's money still makes him the favorite but it's an ever so slight advantage and shrinking daily as his super PAC burns through their cash. If Jeb doesn't win FL he has zero compelling case to make to himself or anyone as to why he stays in the race. Marco is the only candidate right now that Hillary is truly scared of and the reason is simple: he's the only Republican in the race who offers a contrast that doesn't doesn't automatically favor a Democrat. Trump offers a contrast that makes Hillary's campaign salivate; and Jeb negates a lot of the perceived shortcomings of Hillary (legacy, troubling business dealings etc). 

Dem: Marco Rubio is the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton.

Dem: Don't underestimate Marco 

Dem: As the winnowing begins of the republican field, votes will leave their first choice and flock to their second choice candidate, which polling shows us to be Marco, Trump and Carson have peaked and will fade as they continue to make unforced errors.

Dem: Marco Rubio may have done it again. Just six years after they said he had no chance in the U.S. Senate primary against Charlie Crist, Senator Rubio is now well-positioned to "trump" Jeb Bush as the relatively rational alternative in the GOP presidential primaries.
A recent statewide poll was very telling. While Donald Trump was the first choice of a plurality of Florida GOP voters, Marco Rubio was the leading second choice. Jeb Bush was not close on either question. To paraphrase President Kennedy, it appears that the torch may have passed to a new generation of Florida Republicans.

Dem: After the first few states, campaigns become hand to mouth. There is no clear path for Jeb to get momentum by March 1, and the two weeks between March 1 & March 15 are an eternity in Presidentials. Marco is the one guy who gives the establishment & the grassroots a win. He's also the one that makes it very hard for Clinton. 

Dem: Marco continues to pose the greatest risk because he knows how to deliver a message in English and Spanish. He can run as an outsider looking to change the inside. Though he will undoubtedly have to explain his missed votes in the Senate. 

Dem: Still waiting for the inevitable fade of the outsider candidacies of Trump and Carson...

Dem: He's their best bet at this point but he may not seem presidential enough to beat Clinton.

NPA/Other: GOP primary voters are conservatives and also pragmatists -- they will nominate a candidate who they believe is presidential and who can beat the Ds. Trump and Carson, who haven't held elective office, will fade  --  after all, every GOP nominee since 1960 has been a VP, Senator or Governor.  An articulate and youthful Rubio, a conservative with a hopeful message, will be well positioned to win Florida and the R nomination.  

NPA/Other: Primary/Caucus Predictions are usually way off.  Lots of back and forth before Florida. Unsettled Race - Advantage Democrats

Rep: More GOP candidates need to drop out of the race to give a better indication of where the voters who value experience eventually go. The GOP created this anti-DC anger and now are suffering because of it. They created this pent up demand for an outsider - Trump, Carson, Fiorina. Ironically, Jeb is suffering the most even though he wasn't throwing the red meat.

Rep: The whole race has been centered around "the outsider" candidates and I think that it will show in the end including the general election. All the Republican candidates that have experience either as a Senator or Governor have great records yet the top of the heap are three outsiders with no government experience. I think this demonstrates that Americans regardless of party, want some one who will shake up Washington.  I think a lot of Congressional members could be in trouble although they may not know it yet.  Americans have real anxiety over our future and will vote accordingly 

Rep: I believe the R nominee could be Ted Cruz if Donald Trump's poll numbers collapse. Cruz is a battled tested full spectrum conservative and has demonstrated since March he attracts primary voters & can raise serious hard dollars from the grassroots. 

Rep: Honestly, I don't know.  My sense is that Jeb is the one with the staying power to win the establishment bracket of the nomination race, and that the outsiders will eventually hit their ceiling.  But could a Ted Cruz (not polled by you, interestingly) or Marco Rubio appeal to enough of the outsider block while still seeming legitimate to the establishment that they can bridge the two? Or could Jeb get frustrated and storm off the stage? And, if so, who takes on that establishment mantle?

Rep: For now I stick with Jeb staying and winning, but this is why I'm not a professional pundit.

Rep: Marco and Jeb are trending in totally different directions. Trump is trending down and the Carson bubble will pop soon. In a campaign built on earned media, I'm not sure how much Jeb's paid media can do to counteract this trend. The plan to tear down other Republican rivals, namely Marco, only works if you don't have extremely high negatives, which Jeb does. 

My guess: If Jeb's numbers in the early states don't get better by Thanksgiving, the family steps in and tells Jeb that this could hurt the brand and he needs to think about the future, namely George P., and get out. Then what's left in Right To Rise gets used to finish off Trump and clear a path for a Marco v. Cruz primary race. Cruz takes Iowa, Marco takes NH and either SC or Nevada and heads into the SEC primary and Florida with all the steam. 

Rep: As much as I love JEB the sentiment of the Republican Base does not want a dynasty run right now (no matter how safe or good a bet). This shows clearly in his sinking in the polls. Marco has the vision to take this all the way as long as he can escape unforced errors.

Rep: Rubio has positioned himself well to take advantage of the opportunities available after the fall of the two outsiders, Trump and Carson. 


Rep: After Jeb loses, badly, in Iowa and New Hampshire and loses South Carolina to Marco, he will drop out and endorse Marco before March 15. This will propel Marco to the nomination. Which is good for the GOP. Marco can hold the base and appeal to the masses in November.

Rep: Rubio represents a compromise between all sides of the GOP electorate. To top things off, he's young, articulate and inspiring. Whether or not he can beat Hillary Clinton, however, is a totally different question.

Rep: At this point, any political operative, consultant or insider that tells you that they have any idea what is %#&@! is going on or what will happen is lying to you. The political "markets",now, say that Rubio is the bet.  They are presuming that the public will settle on a mainstream candidate with political experience.  That's a reasonable bet, but it's also a reasonable bet that voters are ticked off enough to carry Donald Trump or Ben Carson right through the nomination. Right now, most of us political know-it-alls are standing around, scratching our butts and saying, "WTH?!"

Rep: It's fascinating and uncertain in Florida. Will Bush invoke Mutually Assured Destruction (re: Rubio) on his way out? How many Florida political friendships will be ended because of the Bush-Rubio feud? 

Rep: I should add this: All of us "insider experts" have been seriously humbled by this race. I don't think any of us have any idea who the nominee is going to be or who is going to win Florida. Most of us "insiders" can't imagine Trump or Carson as the Republican nominee so we predict they won't be, but all of us may be wrong.

This week's Florida Insiders included:  

Marion Hammer, Betty Castor, Mac Stipanovich, Henry Kelley, Chris Dorworth, Brian Ballard, Joe Perry, Rich Heffley, Ben Pollara, Doc Dockery, Ashley Walker, Nancy Watkins, Cindy Graves, Eric Johnson, Frank Tsamatoules, Meredith O'Rourke, Ron Greenstein, Frank Mirabella, Alex Sink,  Roger Stone, Alan Becker, Gretchen Picotte, Mike Fasano, Aubrey Jewett, John Morgan, Roly Marante, Wayne Bertsch, Bob Graham, Steve Vancore, John Wehrung, Clarence McKee, Stephanie Kunkel, David Colburn, Steve Uhlfelder, Jason Roth, Karl Koch, Ron Sachs, Jackie Lee, Michael Albetta, Brad Coker, James Harris, Joy-Ann Reid, Ron Bilbao, Richard Swann, David Rancourt, Stephen Shiver, Slater Balyliss, Al Hoffman, Rodney Barreto, Brett Doster, Cynthia Henderson, Marc Reichelderfer, Ryan Duffy, Kristy Campbell, Screven Watson,  Al Cardenas, Gus Corbella, Gayle Andrews, Jim Davis, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Justin Day Ann Herberger, Josh Geise, Jim Rimes, Chip LaMarca, Paul Mitchell, Ana Navarro, Alex Patton, JC Planas, Allan Bense, Paul Bradshaw, Erik Kirk, Towson Fraser, John French, Ellen Freidin, Tom Lewis, Darrick McGhee, Jamie Wilson, Sarah Bascom, Bill Lee, David Bishop, Bob Sparks, Hayden Dempsey, Richard DeNapoli, Pablo Diaz, Eric Eikenberg, Marty Fiorentino, Mike Hanna, Jamie Miller, Jason Unger, David Johnson, Barry Edwards, Chris Kise, Christina Johnson, Oscar Anderson, Scott Peelen, Rich Crotty, Jason Rosenberg,  Abel Harding, Darryl Paulson,  Ryan Tyson, Anthony Pedicini, Fred Cunningham, Mike Hamby, Cory Tilley, Husein Cumber, Eric Jotkoff, Mitch Ceasar, Bernie Campbell, Steve Geller, Donald Hinkle, Jason Altmire, Jim Kitchens, Kevin Cate, Monica Russo, Kevin King, Dave Aronberg, Chris Hand, Bud Shorstein, Christian Ulvert, Steve Schale, Bill Helmich, Damien Filer, Brad Herold, Chris Korge, Shannon Gravitte, Tony Hill, Peter Wallace, Jeff Johnson, Nancy McGowan, Mark Zubaly, Richard Gentry, Paula Dockery, Greg C. Truax, Matthew Corrigan, Kirk Pepper, Nels Kingston, Rick Wilson, Sarah Rumpf, Kirk Fordham, John Konkus, John Stemberger, Tom Gaitens, Amber Stoner, John Dowless, Nick Hansen, Jack Furnari, Sam Rashid, Stafford Jones, Javier Manjerres, Christian Ziegler, Jill Chamberlin, Dan Mclaughlin, Tim Baker, Andrew Weinstein, Jon Ausman.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 29, 2015 9:15am]


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