Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rick Perry front-runner heading into Florida straw poll

Florida's most experienced political professionals are closely divided on whether Rick Perry or Mitt Romney will win Florida's Republican presidential primary, but overwhelmingly they see Romney as the stronger candidate to beat President Barack Obama in Florida.

More than 100 of Florida's sharpest political minds — including campaign consultants, lobbyists, politicians — participated in the latest St. Petersburg Times Florida Insider Poll, and the results were striking: Two-thirds of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans pegged Romney as the stronger general election candidate, though Democrats were considerably more confident than Republicans that Perry would win Florida's crucial presidential primary early next year.

Half of the Republicans predicted Romney would win the primary, and 41 percent predicted Perry. Among Democrats, 56 percent expect Perry to win the primary, and 37 percent said Romney.

The survey included 54 Republicans, 43 Democrats and seven people not registered to either party. It was taken after last week's debate in Tampa and just as the candidates are about to descend on Orlando for the state GOP's Presidency 5 this week: a Fox News debate, Conservative Political Action Committee conference and a straw poll of nearly 3,500 party activists registered as delegates.

Is that mock election a credible indicator of a candidate's strength with Florida Republicans? Fifty-six percent of our Republican insiders said it was, and 43 percent said no. More than 80 percent of our insiders, Republicans and Democrats alike, predicted Perry will win that straw poll Saturday.

Trying to downplay its significance, Romney and Michele Bachmann are not planning to address the delegates on the day they vote. More than 70 percent of poll respondents said that was an unwise decision.

To see who participated in the Florida Insider Poll check the Buzz blog.

Jeb, disaster planner

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is getting into the for-profit disaster response business. A veteran of emergency response operations — having personally weathered Hurricane Andrew and then shepherded the state through seven mega-hurricanes as governor — Bush has joined forces with O'Brien's Response Management, an emergency planning company, according to a story in the Maritime Executive.

Brushing up on ethics

Spotted: former Gov. Charlie Crist attending an ethics class put on by the District of Columbia Bar last weekend. The class is required to be admitted to the D.C. Bar. Crist told Buzz he had let his membership lapse and wanted to get it reinstated because "you never know what may come up."

Sink means business

Former Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink barely lost the gubernatorial race to Rick Scott last year, but said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 that there's little about her campaign she second-guesses.

"I keep going back to two things: One is a guy who put up $75 million of his own money and outspent us probably two- or three-to-one. And the second very important thing, as you've reported on, is just the environment of the nation — a very anti-incumbent, anti-Washington, anti-the president (mood)," Sink said in the interview airing today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

She has launched a new public policy foundation,, to focus on boosting small businesses in Florida. What would have been her first steps to get Florida back to work as governor?

"I would have put together an incentive package directly relating to incenting businesses who are actually hiring more Floridians. The across-the-board idea doesn't work, because if you give people across-the-board tax cuts, who's to say it doesn't just go into their back pocket for a vacation or a vacation home," Sink said. "I would have really directly tied it to a business that's hiring additional employees and putting Floridians back to work."

Becky Bowers, Constance Humburg and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Al Cardenas. The chairman of the American Conservative Union and former Florida GOP chairman has put together a political blockbuster for Friday in Orlando: CPAC-FL. He's making the Florida GOP look good, holding the conference during the party's three-day Presidency 5 gathering. CPAC-FL will feature every major presidential candidate as well as conservative stars ranging from Marco Rubio to Ann Coulter and the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre.

Loser of the week

Tea partiers. Last week's CNN-hosted Tea Party Express debate was a lively affair, including a jarring moment when audience members cheered at the suggestion that society should let an uninsured 30-year-old die. That's American exceptionalism? Really?

Rick Perry front-runner heading into Florida straw poll 09/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2011 7:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.