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Not much time left before Republicans start voting

Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped into the presidential race only weeks ago. Speculation continues about whether Sarah Palin or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will enter the fray as well.

But if that suggests plenty of time before Republicans start voting, think again.

Florida has until Oct. 1 to set its presidential primary date, but more and more we hear late January is likely. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is talking about setting her state's primary for Jan. 31, and in that case Florida would likely go earlier. That in turn would surely lead to Iowa caucuses just around the start of the New Year, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — dashing the Republican National Committee's hopes for no primaries or caucuses before February.

Everything's in flux, but if all that happens, Florida Republicans may start voting in just over three months. That's because absentee ballots would start going out before Christmas.

Still plenty of time to start gearing up in Florida? Not really.

At least we should finally be able to put to rest speculation about new candidates — in about 10 weeks.

Under Florida law, each political party has until Oct. 31 to give the Division of Elections its list of candidates for the ballot. Palin and company can't flirt/dawdle endlessly if she wants to be on Florida's primary ballot. Other state deadlines follow soon.

Castor challenger

Even Mark Sharpe acknowledges that after redistricting, the 11th Congressional District is likely to still lean Democratic in 2012. That makes the Republican Hillsborough County commissioner a clear underdog against Democratic incumbent Kathy Castor — but sure to be the strongest challenger Castor has faced since winning that seat in 2006.

Sharpe is well known, independent-minded and, well, sharp. Check him out today on Bay News 9's Political Connections, where he suggests he is more "mature" than his prior archconservative congressional campaigns and that voters want problem solvers and compromisers, not rigid ideologues or cautious politicians.

On several issues — opposition to offshore drilling, support for expanding travel to Cuba — he and Castor are on the same page. Would he have voted to revamp Medicare into a voucher program? "I probably likely would not have voted for it."

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Poll position

An Aug. 18-22 Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll found that U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan would have a slight lead over the field of prospective Republican U.S. Senate candidates if he jumped in, but he's not especially competitive against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

The poll was conducted before South Florida Rep. Allen West ruled out running for the Senate, and it included West, Buchanan, and even Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee among the prospective Republicans. Here are the results of the hypothetical primary: Buchanan 14 percent, West 11 percent, Adam Hasner 8 percent, George LeMieux 7 percent, Craig Miller 5 percent, Mike McCalister 2 percent, Gee 1 percent, Undecided 52 percent.

The poll included several matchups against Nelson:

• Nelson 49 percent, LeMieux 34 percent, Undecided 17 percent.

• Nelson 45 percent, Hasner 34 percent, Undecided 21 percent.

• Nelson 45 percent, Buchanan 35 percent, Undecided 18 percent.

• Nelson 44 percent, West 38 percent, Undecided 18 percent.

Insider support

Former state House Majority Leader Hasner had been campaigning as an outsider, but lately he's been reeling in some big establishment endorsements, including former state House Speaker Allan Bense, former Jeb Bush chief of staff Kathleen Shanahan and longtime Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw.

"I watched the race play out for awhile and at the end of the day I've got to support someone who's an authentic conservative, and Adam fits that bill,'' said Bradshaw, a Bush loyalist who presumably recalls LeMieux's role in snubbing President George W. Bush by keeping Charlie Crist away from him during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

Quote of the week

"The colonel has to use the restroom." That's from a nervous aide to Republican U.S. Senate candidate McCalister, trying to get the retired colonel away from the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo and pointed questions about his military record.

Winner of the week

Marco Rubio. More impressive than the speech he gave at the Reagan Library in California last week was Rubio escorting a frail Nancy Reagan to her seat and then — living up to his GOP messiah image — catching her as she stumbled and nearly hit the floor. How many other vice presidential contenders can say they snatched Nancy Reagan from the jaws of a broken hip?

Loser of the week

Bill Foster. Ever-changing stories about his plan for the Rays. A bizarre insistence that he speak to residents one by one, and not through the media. Hizzoner is starting to look unhinged and a far cry from a Major League mayor.

Not much time left before Republicans start voting 08/27/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 7:58pm]
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