He has put entitlement reform at the center of the presidential race, and there's little reason to think he'll win over Hispanic voters. So does vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan help Mitt Romney in Florida or hurt him?
Our latest Florida Insider Poll surveyed 117 of the state's most plugged-in and experienced political minds — campaign consultants, fundraisers, lobbyists, activists — and found nine out of 10 Democrats see Ryan hurting Romney in Florida, and one in three Republicans agree.
Overall among the 117 Insider Poll participants — 62 Republicans, 48 Democrats and seven independents — 58 percent said Ryan hurts Romney in Florida and 42 percent said he helps him. While one-third of Republicans suggested the House budget chief created a problem, an overwhelming majority is enthusiastic about Ryan on the ticket.
Asked whether Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would have been a better pick for Romney, 44 percent of Insiders said yes and 55 percent said no. A slight majority of Democrats thought Rubio would have been a better running mate choice for Romney, but 60 percent of Republicans did not.
Our Democratic Insiders remain more optimistic about the presidential race than the Republicans, which has been consistent over the past year. Nearly 94 percent of Democrats expect Barack Obama to win Florida, and 98 percent expect him to win the election. By contrast, nearly 73 percent of Republican Insiders expect Romney to win Florida, and 60 percent expect the former Massachusetts governor to win the national election.
The list of our Florida Insider Poll participants is on The Buzz blog: blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.
Saying no to invite
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Connie Mack IV, who has complained about the Tampa Bay Times' coverage of his campaign and about an editorial endorsement of primary rival Dave Weldon, has turned down an invitation to participate in a nationally televised Times debate against Sen. Bill Nelson.
It's the first time in 18 years of hosting debates that a candidate has declined a Times debate, questioning our ability to be fair. Fellow Republicans Jack Kemp, Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, Rick Scott and Rubio have all participated in our debates.
Last time I saw Gov. Scott in person, he volunteered that his advisers tell him he won the 2010 governor's race in the debates I helped moderate between him and Democrat Alex Sink.
I don't know what Rep. Mack is afraid of, but he still has a standing invitation to appear again on Political Connections on Bay News 9.
First lady in Florida
First lady Michelle Obama is heading back to Florida for a grass roots rally Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale at the War Memorial Auditorium.
Gay rights bill fails
Jacksonville's City Council last week rejected a bill to expand the city's human rights ordinance to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. It failed on a 10-9 vote.
Business leaders with the Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Civic Council supported the measure, saying the lack of protection hurt the city's ability to attract talented workers, while opponents said it was unnecessary and would force people to compromise their moral beliefs.
Lees welcome baby
Congratulations to Tom and Laurel Lee, who just 12 hours after the Brandon Republican's state Senate primary victory welcomed into the world Faith Camille Lee.
Faith was born at 7:53 Wednesday morning at Brandon Regional Hospital, weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and promising never, ever to buy a meal for a legislator.
Ryan ties played up
In a sign of what we're likely to see a lot of over the next three months, Democratic congressional candidates Jessica Ehrlich, challenging U.S. Rep C.W. Bill Young in Pinellas, and Keith Fitzgerald, challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in the Sarasota area, held a conference call Friday aiming to wrap the Ryan budget plan around the incumbents' necks.
Ehrlich: "Bill Young's vote to end Medicare as we know it is just another indication that he's out of touch and has become part of the problem in Washington. With Ryan arriving in Tampa Bay, Young should have to answer why he supported this extreme agenda which guts the vital programs middle-class families rely on in order to give tax breaks for millionaires and special interests."
Times computer-assisted reporting specialist Constance Humburg contributed to this report. Follow Adam Smith on Twitter: @AdamSmithTimes.