What do we make of Mike Fasano, maverick Republican state senator?
What is driving his stands against greedy corporations, the craven Public Service Commission and the bullying leaders of his own party?
How did it come to pass that, when you read of an outrageous maneuver by, say, Senate budget chief JD Alexander, it's second nature to scan the story for the part where Fasano calls him out?
Is it all about personal conviction, all about standing up for the "little guy and gal" — a favorite saying of Fasano's?
Is that why he's against handing over the state prison keys to politically generous private corrections companies? Is that why, as he said, he "can't support legislation that allows Progress Energy to charge a fee for a nuclear power plant they're never going to build"?
Reporters generally assume not, to take for granted that conscience doesn't have much to do with the motives of politicians, especially single-minded ones such as Fasano, of New Port Richey, who had an early reputation for ruthlessness.
Aren't troubled kids the ultimate little guys and gals? Fasano made a name, decades ago, as a young Republican fighting taxes that would have provided them with better services.
And, once upon a time, he didn't just follow the will of party leaders in Tallahassee; he enforced it, serving as majority whip in the state House.
His transformation to principled critic became complete two years ago, when he stood by then-Gov. Charlie Crist in his independent run for U.S. Senate.
If that act of rebellion didn't win him many votes, his fights against special interests have. Any opponent of insurance companies is a friend of voters. Even if — no, especially if — that insurer is the publicly owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
Without polls, I don't know for sure whether Fasano is now more popular among his constituents in Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Pinellas counties than he was in 2008, when he won 65 percent of the vote. But I'd guess he is.
Fasano, finishing up his last term in the Senate, needs a new job. How many Republicans would have voted for him against U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill — a foot soldier in a historically unpopular Congress?
Lots, I bet, maybe even a majority, despite the advantage that the support of the Republican establishment would have given Nugent.
But, it turns out, voters won't get to make that choice. A proposed congressional district that combined Pasco and Hernando counties was scrapped in favor of one that puts Fasano in the same district as popular U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and includes unfamiliar territory in northern Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
And last week he lost his chairmanship of the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee for trying to block prison privatization.
If Fasano's advocacy of little people has been all political calculation and positioning, then, it hasn't paid off. Not yet. In fact, he's suffered for it.
So maybe we should allow the possibility that a politician can be as disgusted with Tallahassee as most of the rest of us, even though, ultimately, it doesn't matter.
Who cares why Fasano is calling out the bullies? Just as long as he's doing it.