The Republican primary in the 2012 U.S. Senate race may be a race to see who is bigger friends with Marco Rubio, winner of the 2010 race and a certified Republican star. Striking first is Mike Haridopolos, president of the Florida Senate and the only major declared candidate, who has mass-mailed an effusive fundraising letter that mentions Rubio a whopping six times.
"Please, help me win this race for the U.S. Senate so I can help Senator Marco Rubio restore America's greatness before the national debt totally crushes our economy and future," it reads.
The effort rubbed some longtime Rubio supporters the wrong way (Haridopolos, like many in Tallahassee, remained neutral in the early running of the Rubio showdown with sitting Gov. Charlie Crist), but it may be an effective fundraising strategy. There were reports of the letter showing up in the Midwest, demonstrating that Haridopolos wants to tap into the resources that flowed to Rubio.
National Journal is out with its annual rankings of lawmakers (Washington loves some rankings) and Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson lands among the centrists. His liberal score was 62.6 percent for votes in 2010, and his conservative score was 37.8. Composite scores closest to 50 are at the exact center of each chamber.
But no ranking or list will stop Nelson's Republican opponents from tagging him as a liberal, noting he has voted for every major initiative under President Barack Obama. Exhibit A is the new fundraising letter from Haridopolos that repeatedly describes Nelson as a "liberal."
Scott for VP?
Vice president Rick Scott? How about newly elected U.S. Rep. Allen West? Hmmmm. Potential 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich addressed Palm Beach County Republicans and offered a provocative thought as he sucked up to the party faithful: Florida has as many as four potential vice presidential candidates: Scott, West, Rubio and Jeb Bush.
Those expecting a wild legislative session this year might not have to wait long. Florida tea party organizers hope to have as many as 4,000 activists in Tallahassee on March 8, the opening day of the annual spring lawmaking session, for a "Save our State" rally to show their support for Scott's budget proposal and his decision to blow up high-speed rail.
The same day, a coalition of liberal groups such as Progress Florida, America Votes, Florida Watch Action and Florida Progressive Action is planning an "Awake the State" rally to protest the budget and benefit cuts Scott is recommending. Organizers hope to have rallies in Tallahassee and around the state that day.
Democrats to pick House minority leader
Florida House Democratic leader Ron Saunders on Friday announced that the House Democratic Caucus will meet March 8 to choose the Democratic nominee for speaker of the Florida House of Representatives for the 2012-14 term.
Since there's zero chance Democrats will gain a majority, it's really a race for House minority leader, and it pits Rep. Perry Thurston from Plantation against Joseph Gibbons from Hallandale.
Thurston for months has been calling on Saunders to schedule an election before the legislative session begins to end any divisiveness over the issue.
"When you have less than 40 members, the last thing you need is to not be unified," said Thurston. "Once we have the election, everybody will come together, and we'll all be on the same page."
Gibbons said he would have preferred to wait to give new members more of a chance to see them in action. He said Thurston should drop out of the race since he lost the last time he ran for minority leader. "You shouldn't have two African-Americans running against each other," Gibbons said.
Katie Sanders and Mike Bender contributed to this week's Buzz.