1. Florida Politics

The Buzz: Self-funding candidates need to go huge or go home

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Published Sep. 4, 2016

Looking at Florida's primary results Tuesday, one might be tempted to think one clear takeaway is that candidates who spend a lot of their own money to win elections usually lose. Certainly that's what happened to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff against Marco Rubio, to former Democratic congressional candidate and former Florida Democratic Chairman Bob Poe in the Orlando area, and Democratic state Senate candidates Augie Ribeiro of St. Petersburg, Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton and Andrew Korge of Miami-Dade.

But this is the state where Rick Scott spent nearly $75 million to barely defeat Alex Sink in 2010, so don't underestimate the power of deep-pocketed candidates.

Longtime GOP fundraiser Francis Rooney didn't. Rooney spent more than $3.1 million of his own money to win the Republican primary for Southwest Florida's Congressional District 19. He will likely succeed Republican Curt Clawson, who spent about $4 million of his own money to win that seat in a 2014 special election.

At least for statewide races, the lesson for self-funding candidates may simply be this: Go huge or go home.

Beruff's $8.3 million investment amounted to roughly $31.40 for every vote he received. Gov. Scott in 2010 spent $50 million to beat former Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary — about $83.35 per vote Scott received. That same year, billionaire investor Jeff Greene of Palm Beach spent nearly $24 million of his own money and lost the Democratic U.S. Senate primary overwhelmingly to Kendrick Meek. That was about $83.52 per vote.

Prior to that, Florida's top self-funder had been Republican newcomer Doug Gallagher, who in 2004 dropped $6.3 million on his Republican U.S. Senate primary in which he won less than 14 percent of the vote. That's about $39.80 per vote.

So buck up, Beruff. In a way, you got a bargain on that $8 million election loss.

Turnaround for Rubio

More than five months after losing all but one of Florida's 67 counties in the presidential primary, Rubio won them all Tuesday night in the Senate primary.

Rubio got roughly 365,000 more votes than Democrat Patrick Murphy, who also won big with 59 percent of the vote but lost seven counties to Alan Grayson.

Rubio took 72 percent of the vote; Murphy got 59 percent, though faced more competition.

The overwhelming victory speaks to Rubio's stature as a sitting senator, already widely known across Florida, and the exposure he gained in the presidential run.

The same name ID and experience gives Rubio a lead-off advantage over Murphy.

On primary night, Rubio couldn't resist reminding the TV audience that Murphy comes from wealth while he is the "son of a bartender and a maid."

Will biography matter?

Will ambition? Rubio's fans across the country chimed in on Twitter with congratulations and laments that Donald Trump, not Rubio, was taking on Hillary Clinton. Murphy and Democrats have already begun to hammer away at the idea that Rubio wants to get back into office so he can run for president. Rubio, who broke a promise not to seek re-election, won't say if he'll serve out the entire six-year term.

Trump, too, could be looking at Rubio's success Tuesday and thinking his onetime rival may now be his ticket to victory in Florida. That could make Rubio's already awkward dance with Trump even more interesting to watch.

Penalty flag

Back in 2013, as Attorney General Pam Bondi's re-election campaign was gearing up, the Trump Foundation gave $25,000 to a political committee she controls called And Justice for All. Bondi was considering whether to investigate complaints that Trump University had duped unsuspecting consumers at the time. Her office did not pursue an investigation.

But this year, new questions were raised about the contribution: Because the Trump Foundation is a nonprofit, it can't contribute to political committees. That's why Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the IRS.

Concession speech of the week

Tim Canova refused to go quietly into the night as he sat by the bar of Kasa Champet in Pembroke Pines after all precincts reported around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I will concede Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a corporate stooge," Canova said, making clear he won't make nice with the Broward congresswoman and former DNC chairwoman anytime soon.

"She's never given me the time of day. She's never given the time of day to her constituents as far as I'm concerned."

Democratic voters in the Broward/Miami-Dade district didn't share Canova's view: the Weston Democrat won with 57 percent.

Alex Leary, Michael Auslen and Amy Sherman contributed to the Buzz.