Horrifying as it may sound, the 2016 presidential campaign already is under way — and so is an awkward sideshow featuring the two biggest stars in the Florida GOP.
The 2016 Republican primary kicked off last weekend when Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida made a high-profile visit to Iowa, ostensibly to celebrate the birthday of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad along with hundreds of GOP Hawkeye state activists.
Rubio's presidential ambitions are unmistakable. Less certain are those of Rubio's political mentor, former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose name is mentioned as often as Rubio's when it comes to future presidential heavyweights.
Rubio, 41, and Bush, 59, are mutual admirers — both repeatedly suggested Mitt Romney should choose the other for his running mate — and it's hard to imagine both running in a 2016 primary. So while Rubio steadily builds his profile in advance of 2016, his biggest threat may be his longtime friend, Bush, quietly mulling his own future.
For political junkies already keeping tabs, Bush had a far better last week than Rubio. The former governor drew a gushing front page New York Times story about his potential presidential candidacy. Rubio, meanwhile, drew a slew of publicity over a GQ interview in which he said he didn't know whether evolution or creationism was more on the mark.
"I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States," Rubio, a member of the Senate's Science Committee, told the magazine.
Democrats make gains
With Patrick Murphy officially the winner over Republican firebrand Allen West in Florida's 18th congressional district, it's worth looking at the makeup of the delegation. Democrats have four new voices — joining Murphy are Alan Grayson of Orlando, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Joe Garcia of Miami — and pull closer in parity with Republicans.
There are now 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including two new districts. That's a shift from 19 Republicans and only six Democrats.
The new Republicans headed to Washington are Ted Yoho of Gainesville, Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and Trey Radel of Fort Myers.
Obama ekes out win
The secretary of state officially certified the election results last week. It took awhile to count the votes, but Barack Obama ultimately won Florida by 74,309 votes out of 8.47 million votes cast, or 50.01 percent to 49.13 percent for Mitt Romney.
An analysis by Bloomberg News noted that Obama won a lower share of the vote than four years ago in 58 out of 67 counties, though his share improved in Miami-Dade, Broward, Osceola and several small, rural counties.
What jumped out at us, though, was Palm Beach County. The county that brought America the butterfly ballot and delivered the presidency to George W. Bush is a Democratic stronghold, but less and less so.
Obama won Palm Beach by a whopping 102,000 votes, but that's about 30,000 less than his margin of victory four years ago. Nowhere in Florida did Obama's vote share drop as much as it did in Palm Beach.
Scott supports Curry
Connie Mack IV. Mitt Romney. State House speaker-to-be Chris Dorworth. Allen West.
Florida Republicans have little to boast about after this past election, but so far we've heard of no credible (or even non-credible) Republican looking to challenge Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry for re-election. Despite the weak showing on Election Day, Curry remains well-regarded and appears not to be taking anything for granted.
Last week Curry forwarded to party activists the following endorsement letter from Gov. Rick Scott:
"… Under Chairman Curry's leadership, RPOF posted record-breaking fundraising totals, including over $9.5 million dollars in 2012 alone. Florida Republicans still have sizable majorities in the Florida House and Senate and within our Congressional delegation, and our party holds all of the Cabinet offices … Like you and I, Chairman Curry was disappointed with the outcome of the 2012 election cycle. However, we must continue to move forward. That means offering solutions to the people of Florida. To that end, I am confident Chairman Curry will continue to communicate our vision for a bright and prosperous future and work even harder to win the hearts and minds of every person in our great state."
Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam C. Smith can be reached at [email protected]