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Ron DeSantis adds veteran pollster Tony Fabrizio to Senate campaign team

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Besides gaining support from conservative groups, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, in his Senate campaign, is pushing his establishment credentials by bringing in Tony Fabrizio, one of the state’s most highly regarded pollsters.

In addition to polling, POLITICO reports that Fabrizio – the principal at Fabrizio, Lee and Associates — will also serve as DeSantis’ senior campaign adviser, a role he played in two winning campaigns for Gov. Rick Scott.

Fabrizio will also poll for the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Fabrizio told Marc Caputo of POLITICO that his strategy is to portray DeSantis as part of “a new generation of conservative leadership, a reform conservative.”

“I’m excited that Tony is on board for my campaign to reform Washington,” DeSantis said in a statement on Friday. “Tony is one of the best in the business, and he knows Florida as well as anyone. He will be a key player in our efforts.”

Fabrizio admitted to Caputo there would be some awkwardness in working for a campaign against prospective Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Fabrizio was among a small group of GOP operatives who pressed Scott to appoint Lopez-Cantera, and helped him on the 2014 ticket.

“I wish Carlos the best — but not too much of the best,” Fabrizio says. “I understand he’s from Miami-Dade County, but to win a statewide election in Florida, you need to raise a lot of money … the only person who raised all the money in the last election was Rick Scott.”

Fabrizio brings DeSantis some welcome establishment credibility to a Tea Party candidate seen by many as a radical conservative. Fabrizio served as pollster for former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole’s and former Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaigns. In his career, he has worked for nearly two dozen U.S. senators, more than 50 members of Congress, various governors and other statewide elected officials, issue groups and trade associations.

Not only has Fabrizio served in Scott’s upset 2010 victory and re-election in 2014, but on the campaign teams of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy. He also provided polling for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its independent campaign effort, which resulted in the election of six new GOP senators and re-elect three GOP incumbents. Fabrizio was pollster for the NRSC’s independent effort on behalf of newly elected U.S. Sen. David Purdue and the RGA’s independent effort to re-elect Gov. Scott Walker.

Caputo also notes that former Republican Roger Stone is considering a Senate run as a Libertarian. If that should happen, it would be another connection with Fabrizio, who lives close to Stone in Fort Lauderdale, and has been a friend for more than 30 years.

“I’m far more scared of facing Roger Stone across the debate table on Fox News than I am at the ballot box,” Fabrizio told Caputo.

Photo via The Associated Press.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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