Orlando bloggers freak out after Chris Sprowls flips Shawn Harrison

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Jacob Engels of the East Orlando Post and Frank Torres of The Orlando Political Observer both took to their blogs Thursday night to pronounce Chris Sprowl‘s Speakership “dead on arrival” hours after FloridaPolitics.com first reported that Tampa state Rep. Shawn Harrison had switched his pledge from Eric Eisnaugle to Sprowls.

Chris Sprowls Speaker Bid Dead, Rigor Mortis Setting In,” Engels blared on his site, while Torres declared “Chris Sprowls won’t be Speaker of the Florida House, here’s why.

Both posts are equally hyperbolic, with Engels writing that Sprowls’ bid is “deader than dead. Deceased, D.O.A … the stench of rigor mortis already populating his capitol office.”

Never mind that rigor mortis is in and of itself a condition and does not give off a smell.

For his part, Torres, not usually given to exaggeration, offers five reasons why Sprowls will not be Speaker.

There’s nothing wrong with casting a critical eye towards Sprowls’ Speakership bid. In an effort to provide a balanced view of the rivalry, this site has given some credence to the Eisnaugle camp’s contention that its the entire House Republican caucus – not just Eisnaugle and Sprowls’ class – that  votes for a Speaker-designate. And among the entire caucus, it’s fair to say that Eisnaugle currently has more public pledges.

But to declare Sprowls’ bid “dead” after he has one of the most consequential days of his bid is just silly and irresponsible. Remember, Sprowls wasn’t even the consensus candidate of the dissident nine House members who de-pledged from Eisnaugle earlier this year. Both Mike Hill and Blaise Ingoglia had their own ambitions about becoming Speaker. But Sprowls has unified the non-Eisnaugle pledges, while flipping not only Harrison, but Brad Drake before that.

Until last night, Engels had a lot of credibility when writing about the struggle within the House Republican caucus. In April, he was first to report that a coup was in the works against Eisnaugle. But last night’s post reads like it was ghost-written and/or sourced by one of Eisnaugle’s allies, such as Chris Dorworth. The former state Representative-turned-lobbyist is a patron of Engels’ work and has, in the past, relied on Engels to frame stories in ways that benefit Dorworth’s interests. It’s no secret that he is one of Eisnaugle’s biggest cheerleaders.

I like both Jacob and Frank (who has contributed in the past to FloridaPolitics.com), but there is too much hyperbole and empty speculation to give their observation on the Eisnaugle vs. Sprowls scrum much weight.

Engels says Harrison will run for the state Senate (huh?), while Torres says Hill and Jennifer Sullivan are destined for higher office (OK, sure). If all of this is true, why weren’t these hyperactive bloggers writing this before Thursday?

Engels and Torres would have been better off giving Sprowls’ his due and preparing their readers to gird for a slog à la Joe Negron vs. Jack Latvala.

As one lobbyist texted to me Thursday night, “Are long drawn out contested leadership fights the new normal?”

If they are, we’d all do well not to hyperventilate after every development.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.