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Why David Jolly may be poised to drop from U.S. Senate race

U.S. Rep. David Jolly


U.S. Rep. David Jolly

U.S. Rep. David Jolly is a leading candidate in Florida's crowded Republican U.S. Senate primary. So what's he been up to lately?

• Refusing to follow the lead of most Republicans and endorse presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

• Denouncing the fundraising culture among the kind of party elites whose financial support he needs.

• Scolding fellow Republicans for ignoring scientists on global warming: “I’m sick and tired of going nowhere in addressing large problems, and I’d like to see our party accept the science and say we believe in conservative solutions.”

• Demanding the other leading Republican candidate, Carlos Beruff, apologize for calling Barack Obama an "animal."

• Announcing that he expects Marco Rubio to run for a second term and that he will drop out to clear the path for Rubio.

Does this look like a man consumed with winning a statewide Republican primary? No. What it looks like is a candidate hugging the center and consciously reaching out to Democrats, independents, and moderates alike. It looks more like David Jolly is preparing to run for another term in his Democratic-leaning congressional district in Pinellas County than stick with his U.S. Senate campaign.

I wrote a colum in April suggesting that Jolly could run for re-election and take on likely Democratic nominee Charlie Crist, and his senate campaign eventually released a statement downplaying that possibility: "Jolly is focused on passing the Stop Act, doing his day job, and winning the U.S. Senate race."

Politically, Jolly, 43, has no great option here. 

Even with other U.S. Senate candidates likely to have considerably more financial support, the crowded field could enable him to win the nomination with just 25 percent of the vote. But that's not necessarily likely, and even if Jolly does win the nomination Donald Trump at the top of the ticket likely makes winning the general election harder. 

If Jolly runs for reelection in his district, redrawn to heavily favor Democrats, he would be a big underdog against former Gov.  Crist. In Pinellas County, however, anti-Crist sentiment is common and some polls show Trump popular. He could actually help drive up turnout for voters likely to vote for Jolly over Crist.

The deadline for candidates to qualify for federal office is noon on June 24. My hunch is Jolly takes on Crist.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 10:22am]


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