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DEMOCRATS TO FLORIDA: DRAMA IS NOT OVER YET

Might the Democratic National Committee foist on Democrats in America's biggest battleground state some kind of unwanted delegate selection plan for picking the presidential nominee? Party rules allow that scenario, which sounds possible from national party chairman Howard Dean's comments the other day to a South Carolina TV reporter:

"Well, the Florida drama is not over yet. So I think South Carolina will be well represented," he told WPED-Ch. 15 in Myrtle Beach. "My understanding is that South Carolina is not likely to move and that Florida is going to have a different electoral procedure than they think they're going to have."

Remember that the Democratic National Committee carved out Jan. 29 for South Carolina to hold the first Southern Democratic primary (Palmetto state GOPers are tentatively set to vote Feb. 2), only to have Florida leaders schedule the Sunshine State for the same day. Bucking Dean and national party rules, Florida Democratic leaders declined to turn that Jan. 29 primary into an officially nonbinding vote.

A national party spokeswoman said nothing has changed and Dean remains hopeful that a solution can be found by the time the party's rules committee formally considers the Florida question in late August.

Thompson adviser has Florida background

A shakeup in Republican Fred Thompson's not yet official presidential campaign is giving the actor and former Tennessee senator's team a serious injection of Sunshine State talent. Randy Enwright, a veteran strategist who has served as the Republican National Committee's Florida guru, will be a senior national adviser to the campaign, along with Spencer Abraham.

Enwright, a lobbyist for AT&T, Home Depot and the life insurance firm Coventry First, is a former executive director of both the Florida and Iowa Republican parties, and has had experience in five presidential campaigns. This would be his biggest role in a national campaign to date. Thompson's lead for the Florida campaign has yet to be tapped.

He hasn't entered, but still near the top

Thompson isn't even expected to make his candidacy official until September, but a new Mason-Dixon shows him in neck and neck with Rudy Giuliani in Florida. The July 23-26 poll of 400 likely Republican voters and 400 likely Democratic voters showed Giuliani with 21 percent support and Thompson with 18 percent, within the poll's 5-point margin for error. John McCain was at 11 percent and Mitt Romney at 7 percent.

Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama 31-17 percent with John Edwards third at 12 percent, and no other candidate above 4 percent.

Campbell to share his observations

Check out Bernie Campbell, one of Florida's savviest Democratic operatives, today on Political Connections at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Bay News 9. The former Democratic Governors Association communication director and speechwriter for the likes of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, among other things, weighs in on the CNN-YouTube debate and his friendship with GOP Gov. Charlie Crist.

He opposes gambling, but takes the money

House Speaker Marco Rubio has long opposed gambling, a stance that grew from spending six years of his childhood in Vegas. Last week the Miami Republican amplified his objection in an op-ed piece that took a subtle shot at Crist on gambling.

But a review of Rubio's recent campaign finance reports shows he has received money from the industry. During his 2006 re-election campaign, Rubio took the maximum $500 contribution from, among others, Calder Race Course, New Hollywood Greyhound Track, Palm Beach Kennel Club and Hazel Park Harness Raceway. And the committee he formed to attain the speakership, Floridians for Conservative Leadership, got $2,500 from Calder Race Course in 2003.

Buzz asked Rubio about the disconnect. "My contributors buy into my agenda - I don't buy into theirs," he said by way of e-mail. "I have consistently opposed gaming and they chose to contribute to my efforts nonetheless."

They're the 'Women for Mitt'

Romney, who was scheduled to be campaigning Saturday in Miami and the Orlando area, last week released its Florida chapter of "Women for Mitt," including more than 40 supporters of the former Massachusetts governor.

Among those from Tampa Bay: U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, a state co-chairwoman; Hernando County co-chairwoman Laurie Pizzo; Hillsborough County co-chairwoman Anne Voss; Pasco County co-chairwoman Ann Hildebrand; Debbie Andrews and Lillian Knudson of Hernando; Melinda Brett and Jan Meekcoms of Pinellas; and Kelly Clem, Debbie Cox, Mel Jurado and Jenni LeBlanc of Hillsborough County.

Former Manatee chairman joins Giuliani

The Giuliani Florida campaign has tapped Former Manatee County GOP chairman Paul Sharff to head his west coast efforts, including Tampa Bay.

Adam C. Smith and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

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