Here at The Buzz, it's never too early to start looking ahead to future marquee Florida races. So we surveyed more than 130 of Florida's smartest politicos about what they expect in the 2018 gubernatorial race, and the news was pretty bad for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, one of the leading prospects.
The results surprised us. Nearly seven in 10 participants in the latest Florida Insider Poll predicted first-term U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee will be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2018. Nineteen percent said Buckhorn, 6 percent said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and 4 percent said it would be someone else. Three people predicted Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.
On the Republican side, 83 percent predicted Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow will be the nominee, 5 percent said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, 5 percent said Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami, 4 percent said former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel and 3 percent said someone else.
"Watch out for (Richard) Corcoran. He wants to run, and has the raw ambition and ego to do it," one Democrat said of the incoming House speaker from Pasco County. "Putnam will be their guy, but in this political environment, he is the ultimate career politician. Atwater has a better life story. And we don't know yet what tycoon (Rick) Scott will recruit to run. On D side, Gwen knows how to raise money, has proven she can navigate tough political terrain, and is as good, if not better than Putnam in retail settings. She is the complete package."
Asked who would be the strongest nominee for both major parties, 53 percent said Graham, the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, would be the strongest, 27 percent said Buckhorn, 7 percent said Crist and 8 percent said Levine. Nearly two-thirds said Putnam would be the strongest Republican, 17 percent said Rubio, 9 percent said Weatherford and 8 percent said Atwater.
Florida's electoral might in presidential elections inevitably makes our top politicians contenders for vice president, and this year is no exception. Already there has been considerable speculation about Hillary Clinton choosing Sen. Bill Nelson, and Donald Trump choosing Rubio or Scott.
On Fox News last week, Republican media consultant Adam Goodman of Tampa tossed out another suggestion: his client, Attorney General Pam Bondi of Tampa.
"Pam Bondi was an early endorser of Trump. She's the attorney general in her second term, an 18-year prosecutor. She's an outsider who became an insider, and she has a good, strong relationship already with the candidate," Goodman said. "I think he's looking for someone that brings something to his ticket that does not go against the narrative he's been selling for the last six months, and I think people like Pam would fit the bill."
We turned to the veteran political operatives, fundraisers, activists, political scientists and recovering political reporters who participate in our monthly Florida Insider Polls.
Asked whether Bondi, Rubio, Scott or "none of the above" would be the best choice for Trump to carry Florida, 53 percent said "none of the above," 31 percent said Rubio, 12 percent Bondi and 4 percent Scott.
Would Clinton be wise to pick Nelson as her running mate to carry Florida? Fifteen percent said yes, 85 percent no.
"If Hillary Clinton picks Bill Nelson, we can just call it the geriatric wing of the Democratic Party," one Republican quipped about our 73-year-old senator and 68-year-old former secretary of state.
You can find the names of this month's Florida Insiders at tampabay.com/buzz.
Funding Scott's PAC
Gov. Scott continues to pile up the donations in a political action committee he controls even though he is term-limited and cannot seek re-election.
Scott collected another $259,150 in April for his Let's Get to Work political committee, which he has used to run television and Internet ads and pay for political consultants. Since the start of 2016, Scott has raised more than $1.3 million in that committee. And since the beginning of 2015, Let's Get to Work has raised more than $5.8 million.
Scott's biggest donors in April were real estate development company, The Villages; and FCCI Services Inc., an insurance company based in Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota County. Both gave Scott's political committee $50,000 each.
Scott has not said if he is running for another office, but privately has told people he is interested in running for U.S. Senate in 2018.
Gov. Scott: "Republicans now need to come together. Donald Trump is going to be our nominee, and he is going to be on the ballot as the Republican candidate for president. ... We've had an extensive debate amongst ourselves, it is now time to get serious about winning in November. This was a hard-fought campaign, but now is the time for Republicans to unite."
Former Gov. Jeb Bush: "Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character. He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy. ... In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I will support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels, just as I have done my entire life."
Jeremy Wallace contributed.