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The Buzz: Martinez's national role isn't helping in Florida

By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published June 10, 2007


Republican Sen. Mel Martinez may be the national leader of his party, but the general chairman of the Republican National Committee ought to be grateful he doesn't have to face a Florida election until 2010. A new Quinnipiac University poll last week showed just 37 percent of Florida voters approved of his performance (compared to a lukewarm 47 percent for Bill Nelson) and 34 percent disapproved.

We don't know if it was high-profile support for the immigration reform bill or lingering memories of his pushing for Terri Schiavo intervention, but Martinez has some work to do over the next couple years.

We wonder which Democrats will be watching closest. Former gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis? Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink? Or U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kendrick Meek, Robert Wexler or Allan Boyd? Does Senate candidate Pam Iorio have a ring to it?

Pelosi hearts Florida

Before U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid homage to Florida Democrats at their Jefferson-Jackson gala in Broward County on Saturday night, she was asked about the threats to punish Florida Democrats for violating party rules with such an early presidential primary next year. She was diplomatic. "I know there will be a solution that will be worked out. Florida's a great state to go early. It represents the diversity of our country in every way," Pelosi said.

Getting noticed

Some 1,200 Democratic activists converged in Hallandale Beach for Pelosi and raised more than $500,000 for the state Democratic Party.

Who was sucking up to these activists? Joe Biden's sister, Valerie Biden Owens, as well as his campaign manager and former Florida Democratic Party executive director Luis Navarro. Hillary Clinton's deputy political director, Sean Johnson was there as were John Edwards' political director David Medina and senior campaign adviser Peter Hatch. Barack Obama has a passel of paid staffers here, including political director Matt Nugen, deputy political director Eureka Gilkey, and southern regional political person Erica Brooks.

Zero presence from the Bill Richardson campaign or any other Democratic contenders.

Political connections

Check out state Sen. Mike Bennett today at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Political Connections on Bay News 9. The Bradenton Republican in a taped interview talks about his concerns that the special session on taxes could go south, his efforts to promote renewable energy in Florida and even his off-the-GOP-reservation views on the Iraq war.

"Most people realize that we're not necessarily over there for the moralistic, right reason," said Bennett, who represents a heavily Republican district. "If there wasn't money involved, if there wasn't oil involved, if big oil wasn't pushing this, if there wasn't a lot of money behind it, I don't think we'd be there."

Barack's magic

Former Clinton national security adviser Anthony Lake spent a good chunk of this week crisscrossing Florida, raising money for Obama. Lake tells us it's no knock on Hillary Clinton, his old boss' wife, but Obama has him as excited as he was for Jack Kennedy in 1960 and Bill Clinton in 1992. He met Obama in 2002, and brushes off questions about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience.

"It's not experience you want, it's judgment. Obama's judgment on the Iraq (opposing the war from the start) was perfect," said Lake, who campaigned for Obama in Tampa, Sarasota, Palm Beach, and Miami. "We need someone looking outward, somebody who I believe almost overnight can change perceptions about the United States and help unify us within, which is very important in foreign policy."

The other Dean

Democracy for America chief Jim Dean -- Howard Dean's brother -- will be in Tampa on June 30 for a training session with Tampa Bay activists.

Maybe Jeb is neutral

After Jeb Bush's closest political advisers, Sally Bradshaw and Ann Herberger, jumped aboard the Mitt Romney campaign, a lot of people assumed Romney had the implicit endorsement of the ex-governor. But more and more the signs point to Jeb being neutral.

Does anybody think George P. Bush would back Fred Thompson without checking with the old man? Then there are former Jeb aides like Kathleen Shanahan and Cory Tilley, backing John McCain, and his old campaign strategist Karen Unger working for Rudy Giuliani.

"I never believed the perception that was out there that Jeb Bush had any secret support or quiet endorsement for any one candidate," said Justin Sayfie, another former Jeb aide and major fundraiser who is still uncommitted in the race. "I want to see who the choices are. It looks like we'll probably know by midsummer. If you're not in by midsummer, I don't know that you can run a credible campaign."

Poll position

In a Quinnipiac poll of Floridians released last week, Giuliani leads among Republican primary voters with 31 percent, down from 38 percent on April 26. Thompson gets 14 percent, up from 5 percent April 26, while McCain gets 10 percent, down from 15 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney gets 8 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 7 percent.

Among Democrats, Clinton gets 34 percent, with 16 percent for Illinois Sen. Obama, 13 percent for former Vice President Al Gore and 11 percent for 2004 vice presidential candidate Edwards.

Chasing Florida money

Romney, who on Friday was busy raising campaign money in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, swings back to St. Petersburg on June 25 for a fundraiser at the Sembler Co.

Upscale for McCain

A fundraising luncheon for Sen. McCain has been scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 20 at the Tampa Club.

Among the co-hosts of the $1,000-per-person event, which promises "lavish dishes that will dazzle your taste buds," is developer Don Phillips. Phillips, who has projects in Tampa and Houston, was just named by Gov. Charlie Crist to the board of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

Adam C. Smith and Janet Zink contributed to this week's Buzz.

[Last modified June 10, 2007, 01:20:41]

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