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Jac Wilder VerSteeg: 2016 to be a put up or shut up year

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At last, we will have a put up or shut up year.

In 2016, people will have to act instead of speculate or opine, and we are going to have some answers, finally. In 2016, we’re going to find out who schlongs who.

We will find out whether the rise of The Donald is the solidifying phenomenon that, however unlikely, it appeared to become in the final months of 2015.

Trump is the biggie of 2016. We will find out if the polls are just notional things, people toying with the idea of Commander In Chief Trump. Starting in just over a month — just over two months for Floridians — people will have to put their votes where their poll-answering mouths are.

Every two years in Florida is a political put up or shut up year. But 2016 is the biggest in eight years. There is no incumbent president and four of the GOP contenders have strong Florida ties. Florida will be replacing a U.S. senator. There are all those new House districts. State Senate districts still are being formed.

The year 2016 will provide answers to major questions in Florida. Fantasy sports leagues and the Seminole compact are so ripe — after lengthy discussions and fretting in 2015 — that they will rot if the Legislature doesn’t put up or shut up on those issues in 2016.

The same could be said for medical marijuana. United For Care, led by John Morgan of Orlando, likely has the signatures to put medical marijuana back on the ballot in November 2016.

If learning the outcomes to all these issues will be a relief to most of us, it seems bound to bring crushing disappointment to some mix of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump — or all of them. But of all of them, Jeb has the most to win or lose in 2016.

Jeb Bush’s forces have insisted — true to that! mark at the end of his name — that Jeb will rally to become a viable candidate. Plus, since Jeb recently has positioned himself as the Republican most willing to take on Trump, a victory by The Donald would be particularly stinging. Will Jeb put up or shut up? I’m betting that the results will shut him up. If that happens, 2016 could spell the end to Jeb’s political life. I still think he’d have a shot at running for the Senate, though.

And, as we learned in 2014, it is possible to declare an end to a political career too early. In that year, Charlie Crist was declared politically dead after losing to Gov. Rick Scott. But 2016 turns out to be another put up or shut up year for Crist, who now seems poised to win election to the 13th Congressional District. Funny to think of Crist arriving in Washington just as his 2010 nemesis — Marco Rubio — will be leaving, unless Rubio takes up residence in the White House or, possibly, Blair House.

Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson will have to put up or shut up in seeking the Democratic nomination for Rubio’s old Senate seat. Can anyone see Grayson — famous for verbal outbursts — actually shutting up? But while that attitude seems to work for Donald Trump, it is not vaulting Grayson to the lead in a race that still has many undecided voters.

Murphy is very much different from Grayson, representing a moderate, work-with-the-political-enemy vibe. But will the Democratic base — imitating the GOP base in its love for Trump — prefer a fire-breather?

No matter which candidate Democrats nominate, will South Florida Democrats — the key to success — come out to vote in November? Either Murphy or Grayson would need their votes to defeat the Republican candidate, which at this point looks likely to be Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, U.S. Rep. David Jolly or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

South Florida Dems didn’t turn out in 2014, giving Scott that second term as governor. What they do this time, therefore, is a huge put up or shut up issue for 2016, affecting races all the way up to president. Their participation could guarantee that the morning after Election Day brings the headline Democrats long to see:

“Hillary Shuts Up Trump.”

• • •

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida.

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