I-4 corridor yields no U.S. Senate crop for Democrats so far

It's an axiom in Florida politics that if you want to win a statewide election, you have to win the Tampa Bay area. So the strongest statewide candidates tend to come from this swing voter mecca, or at least somewhere on the Interstate 4 corridor.

So a lot of Democrats are scratching their heads over the evolving Senate race, which may turn out to have not a single Democrat from along I-4 or anywhere north of it.

Democratic Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio expresses zero interest, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer doesn't seem to be doing anything but encouraging the floating of his name. More and more Democrats doubt that U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, ultimately will give up his influential perch in Washington, though there's chatter about former gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith of Alachua sniffing around for some race in 2010.

"I would say right now the option I'm most likely to follow is the one that's practicing law and staying with my law firm. I'm not one of these people who's just driven to run for office," said Smith, who said he can't imagine someone from Central or North Florida not getting in.

Sen. Dantzler?

Another name for the mix: 1998 gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Rick Dantzler, D-Winter Haven, says he may run for the strongly GOP U.S. House district held by Republican Adam Putnam (who is expected to run for agriculture commissioner in 2010) but he is also keeping an eye on the Senate race.

"I'm not naive. I've been out of office for 10 years. I wouldn't put myself in the top tier or even the second tier, but I do think I'd be very strong statewide candidate," said Dantzler, who sees the obvious vacuum of a Democratic field that includes only candidates from one-third of the state. "If Allen (Boyd) were to get in, I would not run a Senate race."

Oh, to be Carole Crist

I went up to an attractive woman sitting in the VIP section at the Barack Obama inauguration that was set aside for governor's spouses. "Excuse me, are you Mrs. Crist?" I asked.

"I wish I was Mrs. Crist. I'd be beautiful and rich," responded the first lady of Minnesota, Mary Pawlenty.

Losing stars

Also in Washington I chatted last week with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who sounded bittersweet about Kendrick Meek's running for the Senate. "I'm losing my stars," she said, referring both to Meek, a Miami Democrat, and Rahm Emanuel, who gave up his House seat to become President Obama's chief of staff. She noted that Meek served on the most coveted committee in Congress —Ways and Means — but she said she understood the draw of a rare open Senate seat. "That's a real opportunity." The speaker was unaware that Democratic U.S. Reps. Boyd and Ron Klein were also looking at running for Mel Martinez's Senate seat.

Said Meek: "Serving in the House is one of the best jobs you could have in public service. One of the best jobs."

On 'Political Connections'

Check out Political Connections on Bay News 9 today featuring University of South Florida St. Petersburg political scientist Seth McKee assessing what's in store for the Obama administration. The shows airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Klein's deliberations

Look for state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami, to jump into the Senate race this week, but U.S. Rep. Ron Klein's decision is probably a few weeks off. "We're still doing some research. … I've had some very positive indicators from consultants, but I'm still working it through with my family and so forth," he said.

Winner of the week

Senate President Jeff Atwater: Among the GOP leaders addressing journalists at a pre-session gathering last week, only the North Palm Beach Republican took off his rose-colored glasses to offer a thoughtful analysis of Florida's economic crisis. Gov. Charlie Crist spoke of his grandfather from Cypress. Atwater said he supports a politically dicey review of sales tax exemptions: "I don't think I have the luxury of letting this moment pass again."

Loser of

the week

Marco Rubio: The former GOP state House speaker from Miami has not even started running for the Senate, and a Quinnipiac University poll suggests more people dislike him than like him: 13 percent had a favorable view, 17 percent unfavorable, and 69 percent no opinion. In contrast, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV of Fort Myers had a 37-12 favorable/unfavorable rating, with 51 percent neutral.

I-4 corridor yields no U.S. Senate crop for Democrats so far 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 7:25pm]

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