Florida Republicans eager to put their best foot forward for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa in August may have to put up with an ugly side story: the trial of former state party chairman Jim Greer, who is accused of organized fraud, theft and money laundering.
The full saga, including obscene consulting contracts and the spending of party funds by top Republican leaders, makes almost nobody look good in the state GOP leadership, and the trial is scheduled to conclude just two weeks before the national convention kicks off.
"The Republican leadership is finally beginning to reap what they have sown, as this is two weeks prior to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa,'' Lisa Greer, the ex-chairman's wife, said in an email to Buzz. "With all eyes focused on the Sunshine State I look forward to Jim having the opportunity to tell the truth, clear his good name and hold those current and former elected officials, political consultants and lobbyists who orchestrated a criminal case against him simply to avoid honoring the severance/hold harmless agreement and covering up for their own actions accountable. … The trial will serve as a day of reckoning for those who chose to protect their own corrupt political careers and selfish ambitions by destroying the once honorable reputation of an innocent man."
Whether the trial goes forward — charges could well be dropped or a plea deal made — is no sure thing. Party leaders may prefer the whole issue just quietly disappear, particularly if Marco Rubio winds up on a ticket with Mitt Romney.
That would invite another side story: how several of Romney's presidential campaign staffers, notably senior adviser Stuart Stevens, worked for Charlie Crist in 2009 and 2010, and did all they could to trash Rubio as he challenged Crist for the GOP Senate nomination.
Flavor of the month
Florida Republicans have been downright promiscuous over the past six months, flirting with assorted presidential contenders. The poll numbers tell the tale.
June: Romney leads by at least 15 percentage points among Florida Republican voters.
August: Rick Perry leads by at least 15 percentage points.
September: Romney up by 5 percentage points.
October: Herman Cain by 7.
And now? Three new polls came out last week showing Newt Gingrich ahead of Romney among Florida Republicans by at least 24 percentage points.
GOP talking points
At the Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando last week, Republican pollster and focus group guru Frank Luntz offered some campaign language tips for this year:
• If the argument is over who will best "fight for the middle class," Democrats win. Luntz urged Republicans to talk about "hard-working taxpayers."
• Most Americans and even half of Republicans support raising taxes on the rich. Republicans should make it an argument about "taking taxes from hard-working Americans." Much more appealing.
• Don't say you're willing to compromise because that sounds like selling out. Say you're willing to "cooperate."
• Most people don't really object to spending. So more effective than railing against government spending is railing against "waste."
• No matter how much you'd like to tell the Occupy protest movement to go occupy a bath or a job, there's one response: "I get it."
Providing some focus
Check out U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, the front-runner for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, on Political Connections today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Fort Myers Republican and son of former Sen. Connie Mack III brushed off criticism from his Republican rivals that he is a creature of Washington and ill-equipped to shake things up, saying he is the best candidate to beat Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.
"Part of the reason they have not been able to break out to be in a position to beat Nelson is they have spent their time attacking each other," Mack said of his primary opponents, Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and Craig Miller.