The imminent legislative session is just the warm-up to a hot political summer in Florida. The answers to these 10 questions will shape the immediate future for the state and – in some cases – the nation.
What does Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign roll-out look like? Bush may look like a candidate, sound like a candidate and raise money like a candidate, but technically, he still hasn’t announced that he is running. A roll-out is imminent, right? But what will that look like? Can he top the soaring rhetoric of Marco Rubio’s announcement? Or does he go low-key like Hillary Clinton did? Right now, with Bush struggling to answer questions about the Iraq war and his relationship with his former-president brother, the expectations for Jeb to perfectly execute his campaign announcement could not be higher.
Can Marco Rubio remain in the top-tier of presidential candidates? Currently, Rubio is leading or at least in the top three of several national GOP presidential primary polls. But can he stay there? It’s likely, but only if the scrum of candidates behind him doesn’t make him so much of a target that he gets dragged down with the rest of them. He’ll also need to post a strong first fundraising report.
Is Florida ready for Hillary? As soon as this week, Clinton will be fundraising in the Sunshine State. Will she be able to turn Florida into an ATM card like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did? Because she really doesn’t have to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire like Bush, Rubio, and the other presidential contenders, she can start running a general election campaign in Florida as early as she wants.
What will the field for Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat look like come Labor Day? Republican Ron DeSantis is in, Carlos Lopez-Cantera soon will be, and Jeff Miller may be also. As for the Democrats, Patrick Murphy is building up steam, while Alan Grayson is acting, well, like Alan Grayson. Who else will throw their hat in the ring? Don Gaetz? David Jolly? Randy Fine?
What will happen further down the ticket? With DeSantis and Miller likely to run for the U.S. Senate, their candidacies will set in motion a set of political dominoes that could impact as many as two dozen North Florida politicos – from congressional contenders to county commissioners and sheriffs. Who will run for what should be known by the end of summer.
What does Rick Scott want? This really is the billion-dollar question of Florida politics. As Steve Bousquet reported over Memorial Day weekend, Scott is still in perpetual campaign mode, raising money and airing television ads. But to what end? A U.S. Senate campaign in 2018? He can launch one of those without playing hardball with the Legislature and the hospital industry. To be a player in 2016? We might have an answer for how much Scott wants to impact the GOP primary at the governor’s economic summit June 2, which several presidential candidates are expected to attend.
How does the upcoming special session play out? Sure, the feds have given the state a dollar figure for the LIP program. But what makes anyone think the House and Senate will return to the heat of Tallahassee and sing Kumbaya? The House ain’t gonna pass Medicaid expansion, err, FHIX, so how much pain will the Senate inflict in response? And we still don’t have allocations! And what’s to make anyone think Gov. Scott is going to play nice while any of this is going on?
What will happen with Senate maps – the ticking time bomb of Florida politics? Talk to the consultants who know, and they’ll tell you the courts throwing out the state Senate districts is a fait accompli. Some of these same consultants have suggested the lines will be thrown out as early as October. Tick, tick, tick.
Can the Florida Democratic Party get its act together and recruit quality candidates to challenge the GOP’s majorities in the Legislature? After the drubbing the Democrats took in last week’s elections in Jacksonville, I don’t even know why I am asking this question. But one or two savvy-enough looking candidates have already filed in battleground House districts. The Dems need a Steve Schale-like recruiter to find another dozen candidates.
What do we not know about Florida politics that we don’t know? “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” In other words, the first nine questions addressed are about known-knowns. The wonder of Florida politics is that there is always another Rick Scott or Jeff Greene ready to come out of nowhere and disrupt the status quo. Or there could be a hurricane or an oil spill or … who knows?