It's by far Florida's biggest political event in 2011: Presidency 5 from Sept. 22 to 24, with a nationally televised Fox News debate among the Republican presidential nominees and thousands of GOP activists holding a nonbinding "straw poll" election to let America know which presidential candidates Florida Republicans want to see nominated.
On top of the debate and straw poll expected to draw more than 4,000 delegates from across the state, the American Conservative Union plans its own event in Orlando in conjunction with Presidency 5, likely featuring myriad other conservative speakers and seminars. That should draw several thousand more people.
It's called Presidency 5, since the Florida GOP has already held 1, 2, 3, and 4. All but Presidency 4 in 2008 included a widely watched straw poll that has consistently predicted the ultimate winner of the GOP nomination. In 1995,Bob Dole spent more than $1 million courting Republican delegates at Presidency 3.
Given the wide-open nature of this Republican nomination and the fact that the deadline for delegates to register is less than a month away, you might imagine the campaigns are scrambling to organize a strong straw poll showing. Actually they're not.
The 2012 election cycle is off to such a meandering start that there's almost no sign of courting or mobilizing grass roots Republicans for the straw poll. By this point in 2007, Mitt Romney had already starting building a formidable organization in Florida, but this year he seems intent on saving his money for as long as possible.
"The race is getting off to a little bit of a slower start, but we have full confidence all the major candidates will be here," said Andy Palmer, executive director of the state GOP.
For more information, check www.presidency5.com.
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Romney on menu
The next big event for Democratic activists in Florida is the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Broward County on June 10. The keynote speaker will be Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who can be counted on to call former Gov. Romney a phony for opposing President Barack Obama's health care reform after enacting similar reforms in Massachusetts. Also speaking will be Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who lives only about 20 miles away.
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Andrew Breitbart, the website entrepreneur and conservative activist who loathes the mainstream media, thinks he has the perfect tea party presidential ticket: firebrand South Florida U.S. Rep. Allen West and Herman Cain, the outspokenly conservative former Godfather's Pizza chief executive and talk radio host. Both are African-Americans.
"The mainstream media's done such a job of trying to frame the tea party as racist," Breitbart said in a Political Connections interview airing today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., in which he also likes the idea of Rick Scott running. "If you go to the Deep South where I've gone and mention the Allen West-Herman Cain or Herman Cain-Allen West ticket they erupt in absolute enthusiasm because they know these guys mean what they say about fiscal responsibility and return to the Constitution. And it undermines the mainstream media's slander and libel against the middle of the country who they portray as being racist."
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Kendrick Meek gets a new job
Former Democratic Senate nominee and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami has a new gig: chairman of the editorial board for Politics365, a site dedicated to politics and policy focused on communities of color. "This is a very exciting time for online journalism," he said. "History is being made every day, and it's vital that this history be recorded from the perspectives of all Americans, including those who traditionally haven't had a sufficient voice at the political table."
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Winner of the week
Tampa Bay-style independence. Look at the state senators who often halted and softened legislation pushed by leadership in the last session, and you can see the independent streak - not always moderate. Except for Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, every other Republican member breaking ranks on occasional big issues has a district at least partly in Tampa Bay: Paula Dockery of Lakeland, Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Dennis Jones of Treasure Island, Jim Norman of Tampa and Nancy Detert of Venice.
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Loser of the week
Florida League of Women Voters. After more than seven decades of registering voters in Florida, the civic group is halting the practice. Why? Because a Legislature that loathes government regulations imposed a slew of onerous regulations on voter registration groups.