Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For 2013, Marco Rubio is political loser, Rick Scott is the winner

Marco Rubio comes off as just another ambitious senator jockeying for political advantage.

Marco Rubio comes off as just another ambitious senator jockeying for political advantage.

Before we embrace a new year of wild and unpredictable Florida politics, it's time to honor the biggest winner and loser in 2013.

Let's start with the year's political loser. The choice was easy: Sen. Marco Rubio.

His diminishment over the past 12 months has been so dramatic, it's easy to forget that he began 2013 consistently at the top of Republican polls of preferred 2016 presidential nominees, still widely viewed as the face of the GOP's future.

Today, Rubio looks more like just another ambitious U.S. senator constantly positioning himself for political advantage. His often half-hearted leadership on comprehensive immigration reform drew the wrath of Glenn Beck/Ann Coulter Republicans, without winning over a lot of establishment Republicans who saw him as more cautious than courageous.

Cheerleading for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's government shutdown did little to help Rubio's stature either.

Nationally, Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Cruz have replaced Rubio as the Senate's tea party heroes — he was actually booed at an Americans for Prosperity conference in Orlando this fall. In Florida, he has been invisible on the flood insurance crisis faced by thousands of his constituents.

Winner of the year in Florida politics was a tougher pick. Not.

We could make a case for Charlie Crist, a lifelong Republican who already seems to have won the support of Florida Democrats. Or populist Republican Mike Fasano, who was appointed Pasco County tax collector mainly because Tallahassee Republicans wanted to muzzle him but he still wields tremendous influence.

But our political winner of 2013 is Gov. Rick Scott, who heads into a re-election year presiding over the lowest unemployment rate Florida has had in five years — 6.4 percent.

Granted, his constant image makeovers have done little or nothing to improve his personal appeal or poll numbers. Yes, his office and campaign leadership teams have become messy havens for back-stabbing and finger-pointing. His promise of bringing private-sector competence to government has produced turbulence and problems at multiple agencies, from education to child protection.

But the bottom line is Scott no longer looks like the dead man walking that he did a year ago.

His promise to spend $100 million on his re-election scared away any credible primary opponent — a very real worry in Scott's world. Reeling in money at a clip of roughly $88,000 a day, he already has more than $22 million in his campaign account.

Meanwhile, the favorability ratings of likely Democratic nominee Crist have dropped in recent months, and some top Democratic fundraisers are still pining for Sen. Bill Nelson. And President Barack Obama appears to be more of a hindrance to Democratic candidates than a help.

Scott has a tough campaign ahead in 2014. But with the improving economy, he looks a lot more formidable at the close of 2013 than he did at the close of 2012.

West's endorsement

Allen West, the firebrand former congressman from South Florida, last week enthusiastically endorsed Mark Bircher, an airline pilot and retired Marine Corps Reserve brigadier general, for the open Pinellas congressional seat.

Said West: "Brigadier General Mark Bircher is exactly the type of citizen-servant our country needs on Capitol Hill — and precisely the type of leader the Left would like to suppress. … But first, BGen Bircher must win a January 14th Republican primary in which he is pitted against a pair of much more experienced and well-known politicians: David Jolly, Young's former general counsel and lobbyist; and Kathleen Peters, a pro-choice state representative. BGen Bircher understands his oath of service has no statute of limitations. Americans must rally behind leaders like this warrior and send a message that we want principled men and women, those who have been willing to lay down their lives for this great nation in our nation's capital."

On Bay News 9

Check out Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters, vying for the GOP nomination to succeed the late C.W. Bill Young in Congress, on Political Connections today on Bay News 9. The show airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Worthy of speculation

Gov. Scott may be our winner of the year, but the way his advisers have handled his running mate selection has been amazingly clumsy. Note to Team Scott: When leaking your list of lieutenant governor finalists, it's best to inform the finalists first so that half of them don't immediately withdraw their names from consideration.

Lately the speculation is heavy that the favorite is state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, but that still may be a long shot.

What about a fifth name that may be the real candidate: House Speaker Will Weatherford?

The talk supporting Weatherford is worth considering. He's young, telegenic, was featured as a rising star by the American Conservative Union, and is the son-in-law of one of Florida's most-respected Republicans, former House Speaker Allan Bense. Plus, he's a favorite son of the Tampa Bay area, home country of Scott's likely challenger, Crist, and he won't be running for anything after his term expires in November.

There is one problem: adding Weatherford to the ticket anytime before the legislative session ends in May would not work too well on so many levels, including the constitutional separation of powers doctrine. So, consider this: speculation continues about Lee and maybe even a new short list throughout the spring. Finally, with the legislative session tightly wrapped up, the governor makes his pick. Weatherford and Scott become the ticket. Boom. Momentum.

Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this week's Buzz.

For 2013, Marco Rubio is political loser, Rick Scott is the winner 12/21/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 21, 2013 7:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row


    Coming off Sunday's win over the Mariners - just their fourth in the last 16 games - the Rays are looking to make it two in a row tonight as they take on the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series.

    The teams played last week in Toronto, with the Blue Jays taking three of four.

    RHP Chris …

  2. Commissioner Manfred to visit Trop Wednesday for Rays-Blue Jays


    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

    And so is Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg.

    And they are scheduled to meet with the media.

    But before you get excited - or riled up - know it's not to make any big announcement on the stadium or the overall future …

  3. Bucs running back's gamble pays off for his mom


    TAMPA — When Peyton Barber decided to leave Auburn after his sophomore year, with only one season as a starting running back, it was a risky decision, one he hoped would let him help out his family back home in suburban Atlanta.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) takes the field with an American flag before a preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Officials say Trump's Afghan plan involves 3,900 more troops


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's plan to end the stalemate in America's longest war and eliminate Afghanistan's rising extremist threat involves sending up to 3,900 additional U.S. forces, senior officials said Tuesday. The first deployments could take place within days.

    President Donald Trump speaks at Fort Myer in Arlington Va., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, during a Presidential Address to the Nation about a strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan. [Associated Press]
  5. 'Cavern' closes westbound lanes on E Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County


    Westbound lanes of E Fletcher Avenue are closed near the Hillsborough River to repair what the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office terms a "cavern" that formed under the roadway.