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GOP nod for governor is Putnam's to lose

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at The Florida GOP ?€š€œVictory?€š€ dinner in Tampa on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.
Saturday 14 January 2017 23.48

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been on a roll lately, generating headlines about standing up for taxpayers and transparency against the lobbying corps and even Gov. Rick Scott on "picking winners and losers" through economic incentive programs. One can imagine a compelling message along those lines for Corcoran's expected 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

But a new Florida Insider Poll finds Florida's political elites highly skeptical about the Land O'Lakes Republican's ability to win the GOP nomination against likely candidate Adam Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner. Among 180 political professionals, lobbyists, fundraisers, activists and academics participating, only 10 percent predicted Corcoran would win the nomination, while 70 percent said Putnam, and 20 percent selected the "Someone else" option.

"This is Adam Putnam's nomination to lose," said one Republican. "Corcoran is known only in Tallahassee and it won't matter how many state reps endorse him (see Jeb Bush's candidacy as an example). BUT there's still a chance some multimillionaire comes out of nowhere to go for the Republican nomination."

Scott was the self-funding outsider who came out of nowhere in 2010, and some politicos see him recruiting a wealthy businessman to be a successor. He is tight with neither Corcoran nor Putnam.

Eighty-four percent said Putnam would be the strongest nominee for Republicans and 16 percent said Corcoran.

"Adam Putnam is running the 'Jeb Bush for President' in his quest to fulfill a lifetime dream to be governor," a Republican said. "He's earnest and means well, but it's hard to imagine his establishment campaign resonating with the restless GOP electorate that propelled Rick Scott and Donald J. Trump to victory."

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On Scott's next step, the conventional wisdom among Florida's most savvy politicos is nearly unanimous: A whopping 95 percent expect him to run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

The Florida Insider Poll is an unscientific survey, and we allow participants to make their predictions anonymously.

Asked who they expected to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2018, an overwhelming 58 percent said former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee, 23 percent selected the "Someone else" option, 10 percent said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, 7 percent said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and 2 percent said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Asked who would be the strongest Democratic nominee, 58 percent said Graham, 28 percent Buckhorn, 9 percent Levine and 5 percent said Gillum.

"Gwen Graham is a perfect mix of left-leaning centrism and the personal charm that made her father a legend in the state," one Democrat said. "Her biggest obstacle in the primary is the left flank due to her moderate voting record. She will need a well-known leftist for the LG slot once it gets through the primary."

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From a Republican: "Dem field is weak. Buckhorn has a better base. Graham is counting on her Dad who is not known by majority of people. Gillum is a weak mayor in a small media market."

We should have included Orlando lawyer and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan, several Florida Insiders said. Next time we will.

"John Morgan will beat any Democrat in a primary and Republicans take him lightly at their own peril," a Republican said. "John Morgan is the Democrat version of Trump; well-known, outspoken, provocative, Twitter crazy."

The 2018 cycle will feature a U.S. Senate race and open races for governor, chief financial officer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner. A big factor, of course, is how Trump is perceived by Floridians when it comes time to vote.

Asked whether they expect Trump to be a help or drag on the GOP ticket, 58 percent said drag and 42 percent said help. This week's Florida Insiders included 62 Democrats, 109 Republicans, and 14 people registered to neither major party. They are listed on The Buzz blog on tampabay.com/buzz.

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Quote of the week

"I don't think that's fair. I mean why would that be a fair thing?" Trump told the Tampa Bay Times in February when asked about how Cubans who arrive in America automatically get legal status, a path to citizenship and benefits such as Social Security, when other foreign-born people don't.

"I don't think it would be fair. You know we have a system now for bringing people into the country, and what we should be doing is we should be bringing people who are terrific people who have terrific records of achievement, accomplishment. … You have people that have been in the system for years (waiting to immigrate to America), and it's very unfair when people who just walk across the border, and you have other people that do it legally."

Now that President Barack Obama has rescinded the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Trump will have to make his own call.

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