There is a popular perception among Florida political experts that state House Speaker Richard Corcoran is one of the shrewdest political minds in the state, an ideological true believer who helped launch the career of Marco Rubio and is always two or three moves ahead of everyone else. It's easy to see why, given the way Corcoran dominated last year's legislative session and, until Parkland, seemed poised to do so again this year.
COMMENTARYNow that the Pasco County Republican is about to either pull the plug on his gubernatorial ambitions or launch a long-shot primary campaign against Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam, it’s worth remembering that being a cunning master of Tallahassee’s transactional statecraft is not at all the same thing as being a talented politician or even reflective of sharp political instincts.
Consider what brought Corcoran to this point:
##After losing a state House race, he served as chief of staff to Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio while Speaker Rubio was outmaneuvered by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Senate.
##He jumped off the Rubio train to run unsuccessfully for the Florida Senate, while Rubio went on to win a U.S. Senate race in an extraordinary upset Corcoran had nothing to do with. He went on to win a Florida House seat, largely thanks to the help of popular former legislator Mike Fasano.
##At the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, Corcoran, like most establishment Republicans in Florida, endorsed Jeb Bush — a clear snub of his old boss, Rubio, who went on to perform much better than Bush.
##Even as Bush sunk in the primary, Corcoran assumed the conventional wisdom was correct that Donald Trump would lose. He kicked off 2016 with a high-profile speech blasting Trump as an ignorant and offensive "quasi-repugnant" flip-flopper reflecting a Republican Party that had lost its way.
##In his first year as speaker, Corcoran all but went to war with Gov. Rick Scott over economic development incentives and tourism promotion, while he protected his trial lawyer allies.
##On his way to this point, Corcoran has antagonized the three biggest names in Florida GOP politics — Trump, Rubio, and Scott. He also has antagonized the NRA — no small force in a Republican primary — while rebuilding his relationship with Gov. Scott, who won't endorse in the gubernatorial primary and is busy with his own race.
##This year, Corcoran and his team calculated that he could raise his profile and improve his standing in the polls with early spending on provocative TV ads. It failed to do anything but drain his campaign account.
There is little indication at this point that trial lawyers intend to keep pumping money into his account. Nor has he drawn significant support from business and ideological interests like the Koch brothers.
In the last month, the lame-duck speaker has raised about $27,000 and spent 10 times that.
Richard Corcoran, political genius.