The end of qualifying week in Florida officially closed out any chance U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will run for governor. He never said he would but he left wiggle room and people around him were exploring the possibility in more than a casual way.
Nelson would have been a strong candidate, perhaps stronger than Charlie Crist, who carries a lot of baggage as a former Republican with numerous policy shifts. So how close did Nelson come?
"I said consistently I have no plans, I have no intention," he said in an interview. "But when people would come crying on my shoulder, 'You're the one who can win … look at our state.' Sure, that gripped me."
"Florida has been run into a ditch and I'll give you two good examples that make me squirm as to whether or not I could make a difference were I to have decided to run," he added, citing the state's refusal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and the threat of rising sea levels and climate change.
Still, Nelson concluded he could address those issues from the Commerce Committee, the expansive panel he will chair if Democrats hold the Senate in November.
"The Commerce Committee is the biggest kept secret up here. Its jurisdiction is so broad — telecommunications, all science, transportation safety. Aviation. The space program. The Coast Guard. … What I concluded was it was better for me to stay here."
Nelson said he'll support the Democratic nominee but will not take a side as Crist faces longshot primary challenger Nan Rich. "If he's the nominee, I will enthusiastically campaign for him."
Greer book reaction
In the midst of a heated campaign for governor, the reaction to The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer, has been muted for obvious reasons. Neither political party has much to gain from calling attention to the imprisoned former head of the Republican Party of Florida. Republicans want to forget a dark chapter in the GOP's history and Democrats don't want Greer's past ties to Charlie Crist to burden the likely Democratic nominee for governor.
"The people who read it seem to like it, and the people who haven't read it and who are promoting one particular candidate (Crist) seem to be less kind," said the author, St. Petersburg resident Peter Golenbock.
A book tour by Greer would be a sight, but Golenbock said that hasn't been decided.
"Basically, we're laying low until he gets out,'' he said of Greer, slated to be released in two weeks. "We don't want to do anything to upset that applecart."
Rubio rubs elbows
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio mingled with the influential Koch brothers during a retreat in California on Monday.
The gathering at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, near Laguna Beach, attracted top GOP donors who could be useful for Rubio if he launches a 2016 presidential bid. The event also marked the kick-off of the latest Koch political initiative: A new super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, that plans to influence the midterm elections.
The new PAC is part of a broader plan to spent $290 million on elections and was viewed as a counter to liberal billionaire Tom Steyer's plan to spend $100 million to go after climate change skeptics, including Gov. Rick Scott.
On Thursday, Rubio addressed a large gathering of religious conservatives in Washington, warning of an "erosion" of values.
Rubio was one of several potential presidential candidates to appear before the Faith & Freedom Coalition, including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Govs. Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
Rubio talked about how people are told not to smoke or gain too much weight, adding: "I have no problem with that. But we also need to tell people it's important for you to keep your family together. It's important for you to be good parents."
He seemed to make a reference to former Gov. Jeb Bush, another potential presidential candidate. "The greatest of all is to be a citizen of the one nation on Earth where the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as the son of a president or a millionaire."
Graham gets boost
The Democratic House Majority PAC announced ad reservations in competitive seats nationally, including Gwen Graham's challenge to U.S. Rep Steve Southerland, R-Panama City.
The group said it had reserved $352,000 in air time in Panama City and Tallahassee for the final weeks of November. That's on top of the $244,000 it had already allocated. House Majority PAC says it has devoted more than $12.5 million to the midterms.
Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee said it would spend $900,000 defending Southerland. The group also pledged $1.4 million targeting the seat held by Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami.
Jolly shares thoughts
Check out U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Times staff writers Steve Bousquet and Adam C. Smith contributed.