Look out Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, the political world no longer thinks you will be the only real contenders for Florida's March 15 presidential primary. In our latest Florida Insider Poll, nearly 80 percent of the savvy Sunshine state politicos surveyed predict that Donald Trump will be on the ballot as well.
"The Trump bubble is certainly not going to burst as early as many of us expected -- he is here for awhile," lamented one Republican.
Many Republican leaders had expected Trump's candidacy to fizzle out by now, but he continues to lead in most polls. Trump still being in the race by mid-March is not the same thing as Trump winning the Sunshine state race, however. Two thirds of the Florida Insiders predicted Jeb Bush will win Florida's primary and ultimately the Republican nomination too.
"2016 race certainly getting stranger by the day - but only Jeb has the resources & campaign organization to wait out the Trump bubble until in bursts. Trump currently the anti-Bush option - he is allowing no one else to grab that mantle with any certainty - that helps Jeb long term," said one Republican. "End of the day Jeb emerges and wins a very tough fight for the nomination. Followed by an even tougher fight in the fall that will also see him prevail."
This is an unscientific survey of 150 members of Florida's political elite - campaign professionals, lobbyists, recovering politicians, fundraisers, and the like. It reflects the thinking of Florida's political establishment, which is not exactly enamored with Trump.
"Even though many of them are my friends, I will admit that it's fun watching the daily meltdowns from within the consultant class over Teflon Trump's inability to bleed when cut," one Republican confessed.
Many of our Florida Insiders are currently working on or helping the Bush campaign or worked with him before. We allow anonymity to encourage honest answers, but this is hardly neutral and unbiased analysis.
"I could only dream of a 2016 GOP ticket with Donald Trump at the top, but unfortunately I don't think that is going to be a reality," said one Democrat. "I have faith that at some point, GOP voters will wake up and realize they don't want someone who will make a mockery of the Presidency at the top of their ticket."
From a Republican: "I think the debates will ultimately unwind Trump. At some point, you must become specific on your position on public policy issues, not just fire bullets. In 2002, when Jeb Bush and Bill McBride were virtually tied going into the last debate, McBride ( God rest his soul ) could not articulate his position on how he would pay for his plan to improve schools in Florida. The race was over that night."
More than 85 percent of the Florida Insiders surveyed predicted Bush would win the Florida primary, which awards every delegate to the winner rather than awarding delegates proportionally. In late May, 30 percent of the Insiders said they expected Rubio to win, but probably reflecting his lower profile lately only about 9 percent this month predicted he will win. Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each picked up a handful of votes for them winning Florida's GOP primary.
More than three quaters doubted Trump would run as a third-party candidate (though several Democrats said they are keeping their fingers crossed), but several said his candidacy would still do significant damage to the GOP.
"So much for the best Republican field in a generation," said a Republican predicting Hillary Clinton will wind up in the White House. "We're about to be led over the cliff by billionaire fraud with a dead lemur stapled to his head."
Only 36 percent of our Insiders predicted Clinton will win the general election, which is about the same percentage of this month's Insiders who are Democrats.
This month's Florida Insiders included 53 Democrats, 86 Republicans, and 11 people registered to neither major party. They are:
Bob Poe, Brian Ballard, Aubrey Jewett, Brian Crowley, Hayden Dempsey, Rich Heffley, Barry Edwards, Kevin Cate, Eric Jotkoff, Dan Gelber, Christian Ulvert, Bernie Campbell, Ben Pollara, Kirk Pepper, Steve Uhlfelder, Pat Neal, Marion Hammer, Richard Swann, Gus Corbella, Roger Stone, Cory Tilley, Susannah Randolph, Lucy Morgan, Rich Ramos, Bill Lee, Frank Mirabella, Jason Rosenberg, Alex Patton, Kathy Mears, Mitch Ceasar, Poly Marante, Donald Hinkle, Christina Johnson, John Stemberger, Eric Johnson, Paul Mitchell, Screven Watson, Jack Funari, Stephanie Kunkel, Darrick McGhee, Dave Aronberg, Gretchen Picotte, Stephen Shiver, April Salter, Jeff Wright, Ana Navarro, Nancy Watkins, Ashley Walker, Andrew Gillum, Richard DeNapoli, Marc Reichelderfer, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Ryan Duffy, Jamie Wilson, Javier Manjerres, Stephen Bittel, Allan Bense, Steven Schale, Lanny Wiles, Jill Chamberlin, Steve Vancore, Steve Schale, Scott Arceneaux, Mike Fasano, Joe Perry, Mac Stipanovich, Ryan Tyson, Stafford Jones, Christian Camara, Brad Coker, James Harris, Peter Antonacci, Mark Ferulo, Brad Herold, Bob Graham, Sarah Rumpf, Jeff Johnson, Rick Wilson, Pablo Diaz, Rodney Barreto, Wayne Bertsch, Matthew Isbell, John French, Jason Unger, Michael Albetta, Jim Rimes, Chris Dorworth, Tom Scarritt, Darryl Paulson, Nancy McGowan, Karen Unger, Bud Shorstein, Sally Bradshaw, Mike Hanna, Zach Zachariah, Nick Hansen, Donna Arduin, Tom Tillison, Ana Cruz, Marty Fiorentino, Husein Cumber, Tami Fillyaw, Greg Truax, Paula Dockery, Bob Sparks, Kevin King, Gayne Andrews, Doc Dockery, Susie Wiles, Alan Clendenin, Ron Gunzberger, David Johnson, Amber Stoner, Jon Mills, John Morgan, Robert Coker, Susan Glickman, Brett Doster, Cynthia Henderson, Damien Filer, Al Cardenas, Mike Hightower, Richard Gentry, Ryan Wiggins, Nikki Lowrey, Mike Hamby, Justin Day, Tom Gaitens, John Wehrung, Greg Turbeville, Josh Geise, Gay Gaines, Marty Fiorentino, Jason Altmire, Andrew Weinstein, Seth McKee, Matthew Corrigan, Kelly Cohen, Jason Roth, Henry Kelley, David Bishop, Mark Zubaly, Oscar Anderson, Ron Bilbao, Christian Ziegler