Florida's busiest election cycle in decades is shaped above all by one guy, Donald Trump.
That's the clear consensus of more than 220 longtime players and close observers of Florida politics participating in our latest Florida Insider Poll. Asked to name the most influential Republican in Florida, almost as many Insiders named Trump as named the obvious choice, Gov. Rick Scott.
Trump has "decimated" the Florida GOP's traditional leadership," said one Republican. "Jeb Bush is MIA and Marco Rubio is a chihuahua- not because he's Hispanic but because he jumps and barks a lot but has no stature. Every primary in Florida, for dog catcher on up to governor or US Senator, it's all about embracing Trump or confronting Trump."
Some predictions from the campaign professionals, money-raisers, political scientists, lobbysists, activists, and asssorted other politicos participating:
***Fifty-six percent think Gwen Graham will win the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 29 percent think Philip Levine, 8 percent said Jeff Greene and 7 said Andrew Gillum. A month ago — before billionaire Palm Beach investor spent more than $9 million on TV ads — 51 percent of the Insider surveyed expect Levine to win the nomination, and 42 percent Graham.
"Greene might just buy the primary, but it feels like a race between four guys and Gwen, which plays right into her hands," a Democrat said.
From an Insider registered to neither major party: "Jeff Greene may turn out to be the miracle Gwen Graham needed. He's drowning out Levine, and the addition of yet another male to the race only helps her."
We allow people to weigh in anonymously on these unscientific surveys to encourage frank answers.
The findings represent conventional wisdom from Florida's (often wrong) political establishment, and the list of Insiders includes numerous people actively supporting or working for the candidates in question.
An overwhelming 68 percent perceive Graham as the strongest general election candidate, followed by Levine with 16 percent. More than half said Gillum would be the weakest nominee of the five major candidates, while 25 percent said Winter Park businessman Chris King.
***On the Republican side of the governor's race, nearly 63 percent think Adam Putnam will win the nomination — compared a 72 percent a month ago – and 37 percent think Ron DeSantis, who is endorsed by Trump.
"His endorsement of Ron DeSantis changed the election," said a Republican." Putnam may be the better candidate by far but President Trump will most likely carry DeSantis to victory on August 28."
More than eight in 10 of those surveyed said Putnam would be the strongest nominee for Republicans.
"I know exactly two supporters of Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee — his campaign manager and his campaign managers father," sniffed another Republican.
Asked which gubernatorial nominee would be more helpful to Gov. Scott's U.S. Senate campaign, almost two thirds said Putnam.
***In the increasingly negative attorney general's race between former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody and Pensala state Rep. Frank White, more than six in 10 Insiders said Moody will win the nomination, and more than eight in 10 said she would be the strongest nominee.
Forty five percent of those surveyed predicted Moody would be Florida's next attorney general, 33 percent predicted Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa, and 22 percent said White.
This month's Insider Poll included 116 Republicans, 94 Democrats, and 18 people registered to neither major party. This month's Insiders were:
Sarah Rumpf, Barry Edwards. Mike Williams, Mike Hightower, Ron Bilbao, Frank Mirabella, Alan Becker, Jeff Harteley, Doug Kaplan, JC Planas, Franco Ripple, Nelson Diaz, Screven Watson, Clarence McKee, Aubrey Jewett, Katie Bohnett, Oscar Anderson, Patrick Roberts, Bob Doyle, Kartik Krishnayer, Chris Cate, Sean Phillipi, Beth Matuga, Kim McDougal, Mike Hanna, Erin Isaac, Stephen Shiver, Omar Khan, Nancy Texeira, Paul Bradshaw, Leslie Wimes, Susan Goldstein, Zachariah Zachariah, Tom Alte, Bob Poe, Eric Jotkoff, Jorge Pedrazza, Jon Woodward, Jason Altmire, Richard DeNapoli, Joe Gruters, Jason Roth, Al Cardenas, Susie Wiles, George Riley, John Morgan, Darrick D. McGhee, David Colburn, Ben Pollara, Ed Miyagishimi, David Rancourt, Peter Wallace, Matt Harringer, David Mica, Jim Cherry, Rich Heffley, Alex Patton Marion Hammer, Christina Johnson, Brad Coker, Roly Marante, Geoffrey Becker, Ana Navarro, Tim Tillison, William March, Joe Saunders, Jeff Kottkamp Bob Graham, Monica Rodriguez, Mitch Ceasar, Donna Arduin, John French, Slater Bayliss, John French, Christian Ulvert, Kathy Mears, Bud Shorstein, Mike Fasano, John Wehrung, Pat Neal, James Harris, Steve Uhlfelder, Jill Chamberlin, Mark Foley, Stafford Jones Patrick Slevin, Frank Tsamatoules, Jason Unger, Nan Rich, Marc Reichelderfer, Rick Wilson, Bill Lee, Ryan Banfill, Chip Case, Alan Stonecipher, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Chris Korge, Edie Ousley, Jeff Johnson, Jon Ausman., Meredith O'Rourke, Stephen Bittel, Matt Bryan, Richard Gentry, John Konkus, Travis Blanton, Michael Barnett, Stephanie Owens, Jim Davis, Wayne Bertsch, Steve Schale, Jackie Lee, Rodney Barreto, Betty Castor, Mark Zubaly, Ryan Duffy, Chip LaMarca, Erin Aebel, Nancy Watkins, Jeff Wright, David Johnson, Ellen Freidin, Eric Johnson, Pablo Diaz, Matthew Isbell, Javier Manjerres, Doc Dockery, Brad Herold, Obi Umunna, Julia Gil Woodard, Hayden Dempsey, Dave Aronberg, Scott Barnhart, Allan Bense, Jon Costello, Ron Sachs, Ana Cruz, Husein Cumber, Paula Dockery, Jim Horne, Max Herrle, Gayle Andrews, Susan Glickman, Lucy Morgan, Seth McKee, Towson Fraser, Stephanie Kunkel, Gus Corbella, Dominic M. Calabro, Chris Hartline, Brett Doster, Erc Eikenberg, Joshua Karp, Rockie Pennington, Jennifer Green, Greg Turbeville, Don Hinkle, Samuel Neimeiser, Christian Ziegler, Victor DiMaio, Greg Blair, Abel Harding, Bill Helmich, Rich Ramos, Richard Swann, Al Maloof, Andy Ford, Alan Clendenin, Chris Smith, Samuel Bell, Jamie Miller, Cory Tilley, Nick Hansen, Pamela Goodman, Nancy McGowan, Shannon Love, Wayne Garcia, Brewster Bevis, Bob Doyle, Ron Pierce, Gretchen Picotte, April Schiff, Paul Mitchell, Graham W. Fountain, Darryl Paulson, David Custin, Gregory Wilson, Jamie Wilson, Jon Mills, Michael Dobson, Justin Day, Chris Hand, Joe Perry, Mel Sembler, Tom Scherberger, Anthony Pedicini, Mark Ferrulo, Greg C. Truax, Tom Scarritt, Steve Geller, Greg Ungru, Erik Kirk, Peter Feaman, Ashley Bauman, Tom Lewis, Henry Kelley, Kristy Campbell, Tre Evers, Jack Hebert, Van Poole, Ron Gunzburger, Pamela Burch Fort, John Stemberger, Pete Dunbar, Mike Hamby, Brad Ashwell, Ashley Walker, Matthew Van Name, Roger Austin, Peter Harris.