Even as all eyes are on the presidential race, the Florida Democratic Party's 2011 state convention at Disney World this weekend offered plenty of signs that the 2014 gubernatorial race is starting to rumble.
No two words drew more boos from Democratic activists than "Rick Scott."
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who may run again, mingled with the crowd. And a completely baseless, but tantalizing rumor made the rounds that Charlie Crist might show up and announce he was switching to the Democratic Party. He didn't.
"I just want somebody who will beat Rick Scott. He's an embarrassment to our state,'' former Attorney General Bob Butterworth said when asked about his former boss, Crist, running for governor.
Conspicuously absent from Disney was former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who said she had another commitment. Iorio, lately promoting her new book on leadership, has an excellent profile to run statewide, but has lots of schmoozing to do among Democratic donors and activists if she really wants to mount a serious campaign.
Then there was state Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith, who ran unsuccessfully in 2006 and hasn't ruled out running again. The moderate former prosecutor and state senator from the Gainesville area gave one of the most rousing speeches of the weekend, excoriating Republicans as obstructionist ideologues out of touch with middle-class Americans.
"Think about it. When Republicans took over the leadership of Florida, most of you had never even heard the term underwater mortgage," Smith said. "Today 46 percent of all Floridians owe more on their home than it is worth.
"It is in a moment of crisis like we are that a political party can revive itself, reinvent itself into a force that can re-center this nation, this state. Unlike the Republicans, we don't have some undying sworn oath that says we will keep supporting the same predatory practices that got us into this mess to start with. We're the only party situated where we can reach out and lead the entire nation."
Smith on Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan: The last public official who backed a tax policy as regressive as 9-9-9 was the "sheriff of Nottingham."
Perry on 'Connections'
Don't miss Texas Gov. Rick Perry today on Political Connections on Bay News 9. He weighs in on drilling off Florida's coast, his proposed overhaul of the tax system, President Barack Obama's birth certificate and much more. The show airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Bondi the holdout
When Mitt Romney opened his South Tampa campaign office a few weeks back, Attorney General Pam Bondi was on hand and even came on stage with him. But though she may have looked like a Romney supporter, she's the only member of the Cabinet who has not endorsed for president. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are with Romney.
Intriguingly, a couple of her top political advisers, Kathleen Shanahan and Adam Goodman of Tampa, are helping lead Cain's campaign in Florida. Another top adviser, Brett Doster, is leading Romney's Florida effort.
Rubio raises less
Sen. Marco Rubio raised $809,883 for the third quarter, federal election records show. That's down from the $1.6 million he posted last quarter but still a sizable haul this far from reelection in 2016.
About $572,000 came from individuals with many states represented. He got money from PACs and also contributions to a joint committee he maintains with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The senator spent $359,000 in the third quarter. He has $1.03 million cash on hand.
Rubio also has a PAC, Reclaim America, which has been raising money. But details will likely not be available until next year.
Donald Rumsfeld — yes, that one — appeared at a fundraiser last week for Florida Rep. Allen West. Guests gave $500 to $2,500. West is one of Congress' top fundraisers, taking in $1.9 million in the third quarter.
A bigger press corps
Here's something different: The capital press corps is expanding. Bloomberg News has opened an office in the Press Center building where the Times/Herald and several other statehouse bureaus can be found. The building has lost a number of reporters in recent years as newspapers downsize or completely shutter their Tallahassee operations. Additions include the News Service of Florida, an online subscription service owned by a group of Boston journalists, and Sunshine State News, a website whose owners have declined to identify themselves.
Times staff writers Michael C. Bender and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.