With so much hostility between Gov. Rick Scott and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, we've heard speculation that Corcoran could be preparing to challenge Scott for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination rather than run for governor as widely assumed. So we turned to nearly 200 savvy Florida political players for our latest Florida Insider Poll.
How do these folks see Corcoran's future? A whopping 74 percent expect the Land O'Lakes Republican to run for governor in 2018, 14 percent expect he will wind up running for attorney general, 6 percent said Senate and 4 percent predicted he won't run for any office.
"Corcoran's potential candidacy for governor or Senate looms large over everything right now in the state. With conservative activist ideological backing, political savvy and strong funding sources, Corcoran will primary either Rick Scott or Adam Putnam it appears," one Democrat said. "I tend to believe it will be Putnam that he faces in a primary since Corcoran's ideological zeal and quest for power tends to fit state government better than being a junior member of the U.S. Senate."
And Scott? Conventional wisdom among Florida's political elites is virtually unanimous. Ninety-nine percent of our Insiders expect the 64-year-old governor to run for the Senate seat now held by Bill Nelson, and only one in four expect he would face a serious challenger.
Nelson, 74, has already said he will run for a fourth term and only 5 percent of our Insiders doubt he will go through with it. Less than 13 percent predicted Nelson would face a serious primary challenger.
"Bill Nelson and his team are doing everything they can to make Rick Scott think twice about running for Senate," said one Republican. "But if the governor runs, I think there's a greater than 50-50 chance Nelson retires (I don't think he has a brutal $100 million race in him) or, and this would make things real interesting, opt to run for governor and commit to only serve one term."
From a Democrat: "Anyone who challenges Bill Nelson as a Democrat is a fool. He's an incredible politician who genuinely commands respect among the overwhelming majority of our party. . . . And if Rick Scott isn't running for U.S. Senate, why has he been fighting so hard for a legislative win this session? Why has he been raising all that cash? It would be the shock of the cycle in Florida politics."
We allow participants to weigh in anonymously in these unscientific Florida Insider Poll surveys of campaign consultants, money-raisers, academics, lobbyists and activists to encourage frank answers.
Asked about the expected outcome of a Nelson versus Scott Senate race, 57 percent predicted Nelson would win (38 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats), and 43 percent said Scott.
"I reluctantly picked Scott to win because he will amass a lot of money and Nelson is not the best candidate in the world. But if Trump continues to implode I think it could damage Scott enough to help Nelson win," said one Democrat.
Another Democrat: "Having Trump in the White House, though a setback for our nation on so many levels, is a huge campaign boost to Sen. Nelson. Nelson will have a plethora of high-profile issues handed to him by Trump that Nelson will use to grab the public spotlight. Nelson will be able to continually juxtapose his folksy common sense with Trump's hysterics and unpopular policies. Scott will be in a perpetual state of rhetorical contortion, as we are seeing now with his awkward dance with Trumpcare."
A Republican: "I expect Scott to beat Nelson, who has never faced a serious opponent. I add one exception. If the Trump presidency is a glorified dumpster fire in 2018, it'll be difficult for any Republican to win statewide."
These surveys tend to reflect conventional wisdom among Florida's political establishment, and 54 percent of participants were registered Republicans and 40 percent were Democrats.
We asked how they think President Trump is doing so far. Nearly 38 percent of the Florida Insiders said they approved of Trump's performance in office and nearly 63 percent disapproved. More than nine in 10 of the registered Democrats disapproved (88 percent "strongly disapprove"), while 37 percent of Republicans disapprove (more than 20 percent "strongly").
"D.C. meltdown continues. Time to commence a countdown clock for executive resignation/quitting," said a Republican.
"Donald Trump is doing incalculable damage to the Republican brand," said another Republican. "Every day, he says some crazily stupid and inaccurate thing, but his minions of Trump monkeys keep cheering him on as if he were Socrates reborn."
From another Republican: "Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do during the campaign — unlike most politicians — people don't know how to react to that!"
This week's Florida Insiders are listed at tbtim.es/194d.