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Election message? Call an interpreter

Florida rivals Alex Sink, above, and Bill McCollum give differing spins on GOP wins

Florida rivals Alex Sink, above, and Bill McCollum give differing spins on GOP wins

Republicans won widely watched governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey this month. How those results are interpreted has a lot to do with how one sees Florida's 2010 gubernatorial race that's expected to pit Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, above right, against Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum.

If you're on McCollum's team, those results are proof positive that a strong majority of voters has turned against the overreaching, big government agenda of President Barack Obama and the Democrats. You try to nationalize Florida's gubernatorial race, repeatedly calling on Sink to take a clear position on the Democrats' health care plan (Sink hasn't yet) and other hot-button national issues.

If you're on Sink's team, those results point less to partisan preferences than a deep anti-incumbent sentiment across the country. You try to portray McCollum, first elected to Congress in 1981 and now in his 14th election, as a lifelong politician and poster boy for status quo politics.

Dozens of Democratic fundraisers, including a representative from the national group Emily's List, gathered Thursday night at Sink's Thonotosassa home for a pep talk and strategy session with senior campaign aides. They saw a screen featuring several iconic logos — including Nintendo, the A-Team, MTV and Microsoft Windows — and were asked what they all had in common.

The answer? None of them existed when McCollum first took office.

The Dockery wild card

Sink's attempt to cast the race as a fresh face vs. a career politician would be out the window, of course, if state Sen. Paula Dockery, manages to snatch the nomination from McCollum. In the latest sign that Dockery should not be taken lightly, the Lakeland Republican picked up the endorsement of former state Republican Party chairman Tom Slade.

"McCollum is a nice guy, but I think he would be better in the U.S. Senate, where I think his skills are better suited," said Slade, probably the most successful GOP chairman in decades. "She's got the kind of tenacity you need, and she's got the knowledge."

Crist's priorities

Bad imagery: As Florida's unemployment rate ticked up to 11.2 percent, Charlie Crist was focused again on political business. On Thursday, he skipped a board meeting of the economic development group Enterprise Florida so he could attend a Republican Governors Association conference in Texas. On Friday, he was out of state raising money for his Senate campaign.

"I just think it's so important to stay focused on jobs, jobs, jobs," Crist said before heading into a Washington, D.C., fundraiser co-hosted by his U.S. Senate appointee George LeMieux.

Before heading to New York for another fundraiser, Crist said he didn't expect to debate his Republican rival Marco Rubio any time soon because he was too busy with his "day job."

Birthers like Rubio

A poll of 500 Republican voters (margin of error plus or minus 5 percent) by the liberal Web site Daily Kos found Crist leading Rubio by just 10 points, 47 percent to 37 percent. But among Republicans who believe Obama was born in the United States, Crist leads 73 percent to 16 percent.

Jeb's education legacy on trial

Former state House Speaker Jon Mills and Linda Kobert, an Orlando parent and education activist, appear on Political Connections today to discuss their lawsuit alleging that the state is violating its constitutional duty to provide "high quality" education to students.

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Get Adam Smith Twitter updates at adamsmithtimes.

Winner of the week

State Sen. Ted Deutch. It looks more and more like the first-term Democratic legislator from Boca Raton will walk into the congressional seat Robert Wexler is vacating. No serious rival has emerged, and Wexler essentially handpicked his successor for a heavily Democratic district that Deutch can probably hold as long as he likes.

Loser of the week

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman. Spending $44,000 in taxpayers' money on travel over two years? Much of it to and from your home area? Come on, Frank. Tighten your belt and fix your political antenna or your own six-figure state salary will be in jeopardy. Maybe you need to let somebody else do your St. Petersburg preaching gig for a while.

Election message? Call an interpreter 11/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 23, 2009 12:38pm]
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