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Introducing the St. Petersburg Times' Florida Insider Poll

He's an obscure former state House member competing against a former U.S. senator and Florida Senate president, but dozens of smart Florida politicos see Adam Hasner as the favorite to win the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

These same political insiders, however, view former Sen. George LeMieux as the strongest general election candidate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. And overwhelmingly they expect Nelson to win re-election.

Welcome to the debut of the St. Petersburg Times' Florida Insider Poll, in which we periodically survey some of the savviest political minds in the state — professional strategists, fundraisers, lobbyists and grass roots activists — about Florida political matters.

Our first survey focused on the U.S. Senate race and drew 79 respondents: 42 Republicans, 32 Democrats and five independents. More than 70 percent expect Nelson to be re-elected, including more than half of the Republicans who answered.

The poll was taken before anyone has seen how strong LeMieux and Hasner are at raising money, but 35 people predicted Hasner would win the GOP nomination, compared with 26 for Mike Haridopolos, 14 for LeMieux and none for Mike McCalister. More than half of all respondents said Hasner was the most conservative candidate (including more than half the Republicans), while 22 said Haridopolos, 14 said McCalister and two said LeMieux.

A strong plurality of our insiders — 37 — view LeMieux as the strongest general election candidate, compared with 27 for Hasner, 11 for Haridopolos and two for McCalister. But among Republicans, 16 said Hasner was strongest in the general, 13 said LeMieux and nine said Haridopolos.

This should be a fun regular feature, so don't hesitate to offer suggestions, constructive or otherwise.

This week's insiders: Caitlin Fishman (D-union political director), Shannon Gravitte (R-consultant), Kathy Mears (R-consultant), Tom Lee (R-former legislator), Alex Heckler (D-fundraiser), Frank Tsamatoules (R-fundraiser-lobbyist), Chris Hand (D-consultant), Andrew Weinstein (D-fundraiser), Susannah Randolph (D-consultant), Brian Crowley (NPA-consultant), Ana Navarro (R-fundraiser), Dan Gelber (D-former legislator), Gus Corbella (R-fundraiser/lobbyist), Scott Peelen (R-fundraiser), Cory Tilley (R-consultant), Al Hoffman (R-fundraiser), Don Hinkle (D-fundraiser), Ann Herberger (R-fundraiser), John Stemberger (R-activist), David Johnson (R-consultant), Kevin Cate (D-consultant), Steve Schale (D-consultant), Mark Ferrulo (D-organizer), Greg Truax (R-activist), Darryl Paulson (R-professor), Jeff Garcia (D-consultant), Kenneth Quinnell (D-activist-consultant), Jim Davis (D-former U.S. representative), Karl Koch (D-former consultant), Jim Rimes (R-consultant), Scott Arceneaux (D-party official), Rich Heffley (R-consultant), Greg Turbeville (R-fundraiser-lobbyist), Apryl Marie Fogel (R-consultant), Mark Gilbert (D-fundraiser), John Wehrung (R-consultant), Ron Greenstein (D-former legislator), Sarah Bascom (R-consultant), Brian Ballard (R-fundraiser-lobbyist), Marion Hammer (D-lobbyist), Buddy Shorstein (D-strategist), Alberto Martinez (R-consultant), Dan McLaughlin (D-consultant), Kathleen Shanahan (R-fundraiser), Nancy McGowan (R-activist), Rick Wilson (R-consultant), Henry Kelley (R-activist), Todd Wilder (D-consultant), Joe Perry (D-consultant), Ellen Freidin (D-activist), Aubrey Jewett (NPA-professor), Carlos Curbelo (R-former consultant), Jill Chamberlin (NPA-consultant), Sally Bradshaw (R-consultant), Brett Doster (R-consultant), Van Poole (R-lobbyist-former party chairman), Bernie Campbell (D-consultant), David Beattie (D-pollster), Amber Stoner (R-consultant), Karen Unger (R-consultant), John Morgan (D-fundraiser), Jamie Wilson (R-former party official), Erin VanSickle (R-consultant), Mac Stipanovich (R-strategist), Dave Aronberg (D-former legislator, Jamie Miller (R-consultant), John Dowless (R-consultant), Ricky Arriola (D-fundraiser), Eric Jotkoff (D-party official), Roger Stone (R-fundraiser-strategist), Tyler Hudson (D-student-former consultant), Meredith O'Rourke (R-fundraiser), John Rood (R-fundraiser), Screven Watson (D-consultant), Steve Geller (D-former legislator), Kirk Pepper (R-strategist), Chris Ingram (R-consultant). Jim Kitchens (D-pollster), David Bishop (R-strategist).

Haridopolos fundraising in

The Haridopolos campaign says it raised more than $900,000 in the last quarter. No cash-on-hand numbers are available. Spokesman Tim Baker said they're very pleased with the haul, which comes on the heels of a big debut fundraising quarter that brought in $2.6 million. He noted that Haridopolos held no fundraising events while the Legislature was in session. "We expect the other guys will beat us,'' Baker said.

Scott spokesman goes to GOP

Gov. Rick Scott's spokesman, Brian Hughes, is leaving to become the chief mouthpiece of the Republican Party of Florida. Don't call it a shakeup, though, unless Trey Stapleton was forced out. We don't know. He sent an e-mail to friends saying he and his new wife, Tea Party in Action's Marianne Moran, wanted to move to D.C.

Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

Introducing the St. Petersburg Times' Florida Insider Poll 07/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 8:39pm]
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