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Party-backed candidates Meek and McCollum could lose to millionaires Greene and Scott

GOP gubernatorial front-runner Rick Scott, left, is running against Bill McCollum without any support by the party.

Courtesy of Jack Levine

GOP gubernatorial front-runner Rick Scott, left, is running against Bill McCollum without any support by the party.

There is an excellent chance that on Aug. 24 Florida will have a very rich Democratic Senate nominee and a very rich Republican gubernatorial nominee opposed by their respective party establishments. It's an unprecedented situation that has partisans on both sides wary of the potential intra-party turmoil just as a general election kicks off.

That's especially true with Florida Republicans. Gubernatorial front-runner Rick Scott has zero allegiance to the state party leadership or its favored political consultants and lobbyists-fundraisers who are doing all they can to beat him.

GOP chairman John Thrasher has rebuked Scott for criticizing the way rival Bill McCollum failed to aggressively pursue alleged mismanagement by former party chairman Jim Greer, who now faces criminal charges. Incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, both of whom stood by Greer for months and worked with McCollum and Thrasher to give Greer a secret severance package, have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to political committees to defeat Scott.

"No good can come from all the 'smart guys' getting together in Tallahassee and deciding who the winners will be," former state GOP chairman Tom Slade said in letter to the Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville. "If they try, it will very likely backfire. Republican voters are funny in that they don't like being told what to do. Democracy is indeed quite messy that way. It's crucial at this moment, with the Republican Party of Florida already reeling from scandal, that they not compound their problems by losing the trust of the voters."

Then there's the Democratic Senate primary between U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami and real estate mogul Jeff Greene of Palm Beach. The White House, the state party and the Democratic National Committee are all officially backing Meek.

Meek has already said he would be unlikely to endorse Greene in the general election, and the nomination of Greene could make longtime party stalwarts receptive to backing, at least tacitly, nonpartisan candidate Charlie Crist.

National and state party leaders have been quietly talking to the Greene campaign, however. If Greene writes a big check to the state and/or national party, bygones certainly could be bygones.

Dead heat

The latest polls show Meek neck and neck with Greene, despite Greene having spent nearly $7 million on television ads. But one can't overstate the challenge Meek has over the next few weeks. He said he had about $4 million on hand at the end of June, but roughly $1.2 million of that can't be spent until the general election. Between the direct mail he's done and his campaign overhead, it's safe to assume Meek has about $2.5 million available for the final four weeks of the campaign. It costs about $1.2 million for a solid week of statewide advertising. Ouch.

New analysts

Check out Political Connections today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The station's new political analysts, Democrat Betty Castor and Republican Chris Ingram, talk about this crazy election year. Both are bullish on Charlie Crist's ability to win.

New spokesman

The new press secretary in Gov. Crist's U.S. Senate campaign is 26-year-old Danny Kanner, who comes with an interesting political resume. Kanner's last job was as a spokesman for the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, an appointee of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent.

Before that, Kanner handled press for Chris Koster, the Republican-turned-Democratic state attorney general in Missouri. Before that, Kanner was a travel aide who worked in the press office for then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, also a Democrat. Kanner, a Long Island native and New York City resident, said he was introduced to Crist by Josh Isay, the Democratic political consultant who is now the media adviser on Crist's independent Senate campaign.

Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Winner

of the week

Alex Sink. A scorched-earth Republican primary lets her consolidate her resources while Bill McCollum and Rick Scott bloody each other. If McCollum pulls out a victory, Sink faces a broke career politician. If Scott wins, Sink faces a controversial rookie who makes her look like master of Florida governing in comparison.

Loser

of the week

Charlie Crist. Yes, it was a good week with a petulant Legislature shutting down the special session on drilling and once again giving him a foil to promote himself. But now that the BP gusher is capped, Crist has to address other issues — he no longer supports repealing the health care overhaul and he no longer seems to support Elena Kagan — on which he often looks like a serial flip-flopper.

Party-backed candidates Meek and McCollum could lose to millionaires Greene and Scott 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 9:16pm]
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