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By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published December 16, 2007
If southeast Florida developer Al Hoffman, one of the most elite and courted Republican fundraisers in America, only bet on winners, John McCain would seem an unlikely horse to back in the presidential race. But perhaps rumors of Sen. McCain's demise have been exaggerated, because Hoffman has cut short his ambassadorship to Portugal so that he can help out McCain's presidential campaign. It's a huge coup for McCain.
"I couldn't stand by on the sidelines for '08 and let the battle wage on and not be part of it," the former Jeb Bush finance chairman and GOP national committee finance chairman told Buzz. "I feel like I can make a greater impact on the future of America doing that than serving out my ambassadorship."
Hoffman, who was scheduled to host a McCain fundraiser at his home today, said he has been surprised how many Florida donors remain undecided after Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have scoured the state for money so thoroughly, and that McCain's growing strength in New Hampshire makes it easier to persuade people to open their checkbooks.
"It all came down to one question: who would I want to be president in a time of national crisis, and what president is best qualified to keep us safe? I trust his judgment, I trust his character, and I trust his understanding of what conflict is all about."
Democrats happily House hunting
Check out Political Connections on Bay News 9 to see why Democrats are bullish (or at least claim to be) about picking off more GOP House seats in Florida. Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen - head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in Florida raising money for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's rival,Christine Jennings, in the Sarasota area and U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney's challenger, Suzanne Kosmas, in the Orlando area - chatted with us about the political lay of the land. The interview airs at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Tax plan gets Crist stamp of approval
Mailboxes statewide will be hit this week with this flier from Vote Yes on 1, the political organization backing the Jan. 29 property tax plan. It's the first broad-based outreach by the group and Gov. Charlie Crist, and comes on the heels of a teachers union mailing opposing the proposal.
"I have spoken with thousands of your neighbors who are suffering from escalating property taxes that take more from our wallets every day,"Crist states on the front of the flier. "We can do something about it. Vote YES on Amendment 1 to secure property tax cuts that are simple, fair, and guaranteed by law for you and every Florida Homeowner."
The group plans to distribute "several hundred thousand" mailers. The Florida Education Association piece went to about 137,000 teachers, but the union has joined with other groups that pledge a broader attack.
Honesty's the best politics
Former Hillary Clinton adviser Bill Shaheen may have predicted in New Hampshire the other day that Republicans would make a big issue out of Barack Obama's youthful cocaine use, but Giuliani on Saturday suggested that wouldn't be the case with him: "It seemed to me, the brief attention I paid to it, (Obama) answered it. He answered it in an honest way," Giuliani told Buzz. "I admire that. I admire people that are honest."
She didn't have a pointy hat
Rudy was joined in Tampa Saturday by his wife Judith Giuliani, who has received some terrible publicity all but casting her as a witch. We'll just note that we spotted her behind the scenes going out of her way to warmly and personally thank the cops providing security. It was decidedly unwitchlike behavior.
Call it a gumbo summit
Gov. Crist went to Baton Rouge last week and met with the man who could give him a run for emerging star of the Republican Party - Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal. The politicians discussed Florida's attempts to trim property insurance and the need for a national catastrophe fund.
Jindal won decisively on a platform that included changing Louisiana's reputation for political corruption, which is why Crist brought along a copy of Florida's ethics laws.
Romney didn't impress fundraiser
Tampa developer and GOP fundraiser Al Austin tells Buzz he was unimpressed byRomney'srecent faith speech. "I came very close to getting on the Romney team, but the Mormon issue kind of haunted me. I could see it hurting him in the polls," said Austin, a Giuliani supporter.
Adam C. Smith and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.
[Last modified December 17, 2007, 11:56:52]