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Poll shows Rubio lagging in popularity around state

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's high-profile positioning for a presidential run in 2016 appears to be doing him no favors back home. Only 41 percent of Floridians have a favorable view of Florida's junior senator and 34 percent have an unfavorable view, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week.

Rubio these days is less popular than the fellow he chased out of the GOP when they ran for Senate in 2010, Charlie Crist, and less popular than his potential rival for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, Jeb Bush.

The poll found 49 percent of Floridians have a favorable view of Crist, and 50 percent have a favorable view of ex-Gov. Bush. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents have a favorable view of Bush, while 81 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of Democrats, and 41 percent of independents have a favorable view of Rubio.

Nor does it look at this early stage that Rubio is likely to carry his home state's 29 electoral votes. That Quinnipiac Poll, as well as another Florida poll by Public Policy Polling, found former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton crushing Rubio or Bush by double digits in Florida if the election were held today. Only 37 percent of Florida voters (and 33 percent for Bush) think Rubio should run for president.

Tainted money

Former Gov. Bush will return $270,000 he earned as a $15,000-per month consultant to a man convicted of fraud and facing up to 50 years in prison, the South Florida Business Journal reported last week.

Bush earned nearly $470,000 from Claudio Osorio and Osorio's companies between December 2007 and September 2010, according to an agreement filed in bankruptcy court in Miami. The former governor and his company Jeb Bush & Associates, are repaying the money to a court-appointed trustee collecting funds Osorio stole from other people and used to fund business operations at his housing panel manufacturing business.

The Democratic National Committee also agreed to repay $51,525 that Osorio donated.

Martinez returns

Mel Martinez must have felt a powerful case of déjà vu last week during his return to Capitol Hill. The former Florida senator was there to testify before a banking committee but found himself in a pack of reporters asking about immigration policy..

"I can't believe I'm talking to you all, the same faces, about this again," said a beaming Martinez, who was a key player in the failed 2007 attempt at immigration reform.

"I think the climate is totally different than it was four years ago, five years ago. Obviously, elections have consequences, and I think the statements from the RNC and Chairman (Reince) Priebus, I think it's a much better climate," Martinez said. "But also border security has improved. The migration coming from Mexico today is not what it was. And, by the way, we're experiencing some labor shortages again as we begin to grow our economy and housing comes back. There's just a much better atmosphere."

Sinkhole dread

Here's something that caught our eye in the Public Policy Polling survey of Florida voters released last week: Thirty-four percent of voters are concerned about falling into a sinkhole (13 percent "very concerned"). Weirdly, a whopping 46 percent of Democrats worry about being sucked into the ground, while only 22 percent of Republicans fret about that prospect.

Political Connections

We catch up today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 with former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, who has plenty of experience and insight on how to accomplish some big things, including tax reform, in a divided government. Count Gephardt among those who thinks President Barack Obama would be well served to more often engage with members of Congress.

The former Missouri congressman is a Clinton supporter, but sees Bush as a formidable candidate for president in 2016. It would be a great choice of candidates for the country, he said in the taped interview.

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

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Contact Adam Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Sen. Joe Negron. The Stuart Republican is a legislative workhorse who could well be a future Senate president, and this session he's keeping his eye on the interests of everyday Floridians. Negron is working to roll back driver fees hiked a few years ago and to expand health insurance access in the face of Florida House leaders who would rather turn back federal support.

Loser of the week

Will Weatherford. The 33-year-old Wesley Chapel Republican could never live up to the extraordinary bipartisan optimism and enthusiasm for his speakership. But Weatherford has managed to scrape off the sheen awfully fast, starting with painfully misleading personal anecdotes about why he opposes Medicaid expansion in Florida. Weatherford also flies in style aboard a lobbyist's plane, and between his preening before right-wing party activists in Washington last weekend and his approach on overhauling Florida pensions, he's in danger of looking more like an ideologue than a leader.

Poll shows Rubio lagging in popularity around state 03/23/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:02am]

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