It was less than six years ago that nearly 62 percent of Florida voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Today, judges are ruling against the ban and public opinion has shifted so sharply that Florida's savviest political players overwhelmingly see an end to that marriage ban looming.
Our latest exclusive Florida Insider Poll found a whopping 87 percent of the 131 savvy Florida politicos predict that within five years Florida will no longer ban same-sex marriage.
"It's only a matter of time," said one Republican. "While Florida is still socially conservative to a large degree, this is the civil rights issue of our time and to continue to fight against it goes against the philosophy of live and let live and personal freedom."
Agreed another Democrat: "Gay marriage is the fastest changing social issue of our generation. It will be legal all over the country in a hell of a lot less than five years."
Our periodic Florida Insider Polls survey veteran political professionals, activists, and others closely involved in the process. This month's unscientific survey includes 131 people, including 66 Republicans, 55 Democrats, and 10 men and women affiliated with no party or a third party.
A similarly lopsided share — 88 percent — also predict that the Amendment 2 ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana will pass.
Our Florida Insiders were much more closely divided on whether Republican Rick Scott or Democrat Charlie Crist will be elected governor in November, with 53 percent predicting Scott and 47 percent predicting Crist.
"Crist is not running the campaign I expected him to run. So far it has been scattered, unfocused and too negative coming from Crist. He doesn't do that well himself; see Crist vs. Rubio '10," said a Republican. "The race is tight as a wet bathing suit on a hot car seat on the way back from the beach, so it won't take much to make me change my mind."
Our latest Insider Poll suggests that conventional political wisdom is shifting in favor of Scott. Three months ago 51 percent expected Scott to win and 49 percent said Crist, and Democrats were slightly more optimistic about Crist's prospects. Now our Republican insiders are feeling slightly better about their chances than Democrats. Eighteen percent of Democrats surveyed expect Scott to win, compared to 15 percent of Republicans predicting Crist.
"The sad narrative by many leading Ds now out on the political street is that Rick Scott will be re-elected," a Democrat said. "Why? Each day an often hapless Crist campaign is easily bested by a superior Team Scott, which is smartly coordinated with a muscular RPOF, is on message, and staffed with savvy pros who, importantly, know how to win."
Another Republican said, "Charlie just can't chug enough Red Bull and papaya juice to energize Democrat voters enough to overlook all his flaws, and the stoner vote won't make up the difference — Scott wins, albeit not by much (this is Florida after all)."
Several people shared the sentiment of this Republican: "We should all do some serious soul searching, if these two are the best we can produce as a state."
You can find the participants of our latest Florida Insider poll on the Buzz blog at www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics.
The Cuba trip
Remember that trip to Cuba Charlie Crist was going to make this summer and then decided against? It occurred without him and you can hear about it today on Political Connections on Bay News 9. Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and political consultant Barry Edwards talked about what they learned in Cuba and why they believe the embargo should be lifted.
Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Greer keeping quiet
Here's some good news for Charlie Crist: Jim Greer, his former close friend and former state GOP chairman, has decided against doing interviews. In a tell-all book written by St. Petersburg author Peter Gollenbock, The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer, Greer castigates Crist as a self-absorbed liar and lightweight.
But Greer told Buzz that — for now — he is declining interviews. Since completing his sentence for stealing more than $200,000 from the state party, Greer said he is focusing on his family and future and "trying to put this nightmare behind me."
Rubio's busy calendar
Sen. Marco Rubio is headed out of D.C. for the August recess, but he's making a pit stop in Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports that Rubio will be the special guest at a private fundraiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst, whom Rubio has endorsed. Later this month he will head to Colorado to help Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner raise money, and he will hit another key early primary state, South Carolina, this month to headline a "Faith and Freedom Barbecue" hosted by Rep. Jeff Duncan.
Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed.