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Mediocre GOP opponents put luck on Sen. Nelson's side

Hard to argue with political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, who last week declared Bill Nelson the "Luckiest Politician of 2012."

"The Florida Democrat won re-election last month by beating GOP Rep. Connie Mack, who raised little money and apparently figured that oozing cockiness was the best way to woo reporters and voters.

"But what makes Nelson so lucky is that Mack was the third consecutive mediocre Republican he faced. The Democrat first won his Senate seat by defeating former Rep. Bill McCollum in 2000, and then was blessed with the controversial Katherine Harris as his opponent in 2006.

"We can only wonder what sort of damaged candidate the Republicans are planning to nominate there in 2018."

Rothenberg also named Mack as one of his least favorite candidate interviews of the year, describing the son of the warm and charming former Sen. Connie Mack III as "arrogant and smug" and "seemed to have a chip on his shoulder even before we shook hands."

Scott on the record

Gov. Rick Scott appeared Friday on WFOR-TV in Miami, where he made clear he will be happy to contrast his record as governor against that of potential challenger Charlie Crist.

"Think about the four years before I became governor. Unemployment went from 3.5 to 11.1 percent, 825,000 jobs lost. In my first two years we've turned the corner — biggest drop in unemployment. It's down to 8.5 percent, and 175,000 private sector jobs.

"That's what I'm doing. I know what happened in the last administration,'' said Scott noting also that the state's debt had risen to $5.2 billion before he took office and that under Scott it was paid down by $2 billion.

Rubio's heady concern

The excitement and enthusiasm surrounding youthful, telegenic U.S. senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio show no signs of abating, but in recent months an ugly whisper campaign has dogged Florida's junior senator. The Buzz had steadfastly steered clear of repeating the explosive charges, but Esquire has weighed in on the elephant in Rubio's room, and we can no longer ignore it.

Marco Rubio is balding.

"No fault to Rubio's biology — there's absolutely nothing wrong with a diminishing hair count, and some stats say 40% of men will experience hair loss by age 35 (me among them) — but there are ways to exacerbate the issue … and ways to alleviate it a little,'' writes Esquire, quoting a men's hair stylist describing the Rubio dome as "not far off from comb-over city."

Helpfully, the stylist advises a different haircut for the West Miami Republican as well as L'Oreal Vive Men's Thickening and Grooming Foam.

Rubio's older brother is bald, which may be on the senator's mind as he eyes 2016 with the understanding that he can't wait much longer. No bald candidate since Ike has won a presidential election.

Rubio confirmed the observations about his hairline on Twitter: "#Esquire report on having less hair than I once did is sadly true. But good news is I am still in upper 2% in Senate."

Ethics chairman

It wasn't his first, second, or even 10th choice for a Senate committee post. But Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will play a pivotal role as chairman of the Ethics & Elections Committee as it focuses on two of Senate President Don Gaetz's top priorities: raising ethical standards for legislators and retooling election laws.

Gaetz and Latvala were on opposite sides during the fall campaign in key Senate races that will help decide the future leadership of the 40-member body. But Gaetz said Latvala was the best choice to tackle ethics and elections issues because of his own experience, dating to his years as a young GOP operative in the 1980s. He also said Latvala's integrity has not been questioned and that he knows how to assemble bipartisan coalitions, a necessary ingredient for passage of tough legislation.

"Jack's not a virgin," Gaetz said. "He's had all this experience but kept his record extraordinarily clean. … He's been an operative, a consultant, a candidate, and a campaign manager for more elections than anyone. So he has a depth of understanding of the nuances of the elections process … I also think it's important to have someone who doesn't have a problem, a skeleton, an anchor dragging behind them on ethics issues."

Electors vote Monday

If you remember your civics class, you know that Barack Obama won't technically be elected president until designated electors from every state cast their votes. On Monday, Florida's 29 Democratic electors will convene in the Florida Senate chambers in Tallahassee to (presumably) vote for Obama. Electors from Tampa Bay include Alan Clendenin and Ana Cruz of Tampa and Elena McCullough of Wesley Chapel.

Lawmakers on TV

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and U.S. Rep.-elect Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, are on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz. Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Tony Bennett. Talk about landing on one's feet. Barely a month after voters in Indiana fired Bennett as their elected superintendent of education, he gets a job as Florida education commissioner. His salary will jump from about $80,000 to as much as $275,000, and he gets to spend winter in the Sunshine state rather than the frigid Hoosier state.

Losers of the week

Bill Young's protesters. The band of protesters who took over U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's Seminole office last week, passing around pizza and chanting about tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, sounded a lot more obnoxious than effective. Creative Loafing reported that Young at one point raised his cane and looked to be about ready to thwack one fellow who accosted him. The protesters probably would have declared that a victory.

Mediocre GOP opponents put luck on Sen. Nelson's side 12/15/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 15, 2012 6:53pm]
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