Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pervasive Doubt About Bill McCollum On Eve Of His 14th Campaign Kick-off

From the FDP:

On the eve of Bill McCollum kicking off his 14th campaign, many have doubts before he enters the race. While Republicans are wondering if the lifelong politician and former lobbyist can win, most Floridians are scratching their heads wondering how someone first elected when Jimmy Carter was President can give anything but more of the same at a time when Tallahassee desperately needs change. Read more about these doubts in today's Sarasota Herald Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, and Tampa Tribune:

Sarasota Herald Tribune: In race for governor, McCollum is a gamble for GOP
By Jeremy Wallace

Published: Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.

When Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announces his candidacy for governor Monday in Orlando, publicly it will be met with the typical fanfare from Republican Party leaders.

They will applaud him as an experienced public servant who has shown principled leadership during his two years as attorney general. Party leaders are even working to make sure McCollum does not face a Republican primary challenge.

But behind the scenes, and usually off the record, there are serious concerns in party circles that the party is putting too much stock in McCollum's chances against Democratic candidate Alex Sink, a charismatic former banker with Republican appeal who could be the state's first female governor.

Demographically, McCollum presents voters with everything that the Republican Party is struggling with these days, said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant based in Atlanta.

McCollum, who will be 65 in July, is an older white politician who could struggle to win over independent women, young voters and minorities, who make up key voting groups along the pivotal Interstate 4 corridor where so many Florida races are decided.

"He's not very exciting," said Johnson. "He's not your charismatic rising star. He's more of your solid party man."

And while he will campaign on his career as a public servant, at the same time it will be difficult for him to campaign against big government when he has been a part of government for most of the last 30 years, said Chris Ingram, a Republican campaign consultant based in Tampa.

McCollum was first elected to Congress in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was still president, and held office for 20 years. During that time he helped lead the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton.

After two losing bids for the U.S. Senate, he was elected attorney general in 2006. In that post he has focused on fighting cybercrime on the Internet.

"He's a very smart guy who has been in the business for a long time," said Tramm Hudson, former chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party. "He's a known quantity."

But that may not be a good thing in an anti-politician and anti-establishment election cycle, Johnson said. McCollum could easily look like a career politician compared with Sink.

Sink, 60, has been in office for two years after a long career in banking.

Though her banking background is not as good an asset as it was before the bank bailouts, it still gives her outside experience that McCollum lacks, Ingram said.

"If we nominate Bill McCollum, it's over," said Ingram, the Republican consultant.

Florida Agriculture commissioner Charles Bronson is the only other big-name Republican considering a run for governor after Gov. Charlie Crist announced he would run for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Because McCollum is familiar to Republican bosses and top fundraisers, he is gaining their support despite electability concerns, said a veteran Republican political consultant who asked not to be identified.

The party bosses are supporting a known candidate who has paid his dues, rather than seeking out candidates who may have the best chance to beat Sink.

And the early McCollum supporters are doing what they can to keep it that way.

"I think he will win the nomination," said Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee Republican fundraiser working with McCollum. "We're going to take care of that."

That effort already has dissuaded potential Republican challengers, such as U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, from challenging McCollum for the nomination. Both seriously considered getting in the race before last week.

"What made Vern Buchanan a good candidate is that he was a businessman first and a politician second," said Jamie Miller, a former Florida Republican Party official who works in Sarasota. Miller lobbied party leaders to get behind Buchanan for governor.

Baker could have been a fresh face for the party, said Adam Goodman, a Republican political consultant based in Tampa who was pushing Baker to enter the race.

Though mostly unknown outside Tampa Bay, Baker could have been appealing because he has executive experience, but it is outside of Washington and Tallahassee.

Both Buchanan and Baker said last week they would not run.

Goodman admits that at first glance, McCollum appears to lack the excitement that surrounds Sink or the other Republicans who had been mentioned as gubernatorial candidates. But over the course of the campaign voters will learn a lot about Sink that could change the race, he says.

That could position McCollum to win the race as "the un-cola," Goodman said.

Goodman said if McCollum's camp embraces his not-so-exciting image in the right way, it can be a benefit.

Before winning the attorney general's race in 2006, McCollum lost statewide races in 2000 and 2004. In 2000, Democrat Bill Nelson beat McCollum to win his first term in the Senate. In 2004, McCollum lost a U.S. Senate primary to Republican Mel Martinez.


Read the entire Sarasota Herald Tribune analysis here:

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Orlando Sentinel: Can McCollum count on his old home turf?

Aaron Deslatte

Capitol View

May 17, 2009

Winning elections in Florida has never been more about the battle for the state's waistline, the Interstate 4 corridor.

And when Attorney General Bill McCollum jumps into the 2010 governor's race in downtown Orlando on Monday morning, Republicans could question whether the Brooksville native - and 10-term congressman from Longwood - can hold his Central Florida home turf in a general election.

Democrats were giddy when Alex Sink, a longtime Tampa Bay resident with moderate stripes, dove into the governor's race after Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to forgo re-election.

The chatter for months has been about voter "realignment" - whether the changes in racial makeup, registration and participation of younger voters seen in the 2008 presidential election suggest the pivotal I-4 region from Daytona through Orlando to Tampa Bay is shifting solidly into the Democratic column.

It's a question that won't get answered anytime soon. But the answer is crucial to campaign planners, because the I-4 corridor historically decides state elections. And right now, Democrats are riding high.

For example, in the 2004 presidential race, Orange County delivered a measly 815-vote advantage to Democrat John Kerry. Last year, Barack Obama carried the county by 86,100 votes over Republican John McCain - the largest shift in vote totals in Florida. And through April, Democrats had built a 274,000-to-192,000 advantage in registered voters in Orange.

"Orange County is not a swing county anymore," said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. "That genie is out of the bottle as far as Republicans are concerned ... If that happens on a larger scale, it would change politics in Florida."

But Jewett and other political scientists say it's too soon to know whether there has been a realignment along the larger I-4 corridor. "Both sides are seeing what they want to see."

In a broad swath of 22 counties, from Flagler on the northeast to Charlotte on the southwest, Democratic "performance" - Obama's margins against McCain, compared to Kerry's against George W. Bush - improved by 340,000 votes in 2008. The Tampa-St. Petersburg and Orlando media markets showed the largest voter shift toward the Democrat of any of the state's metro areas.

Read the entire Orlando Sentinel analysis here:,0,3970367,print.column

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Tampa Tribune: Race for governor seen as a toss-up


Democrats are giddy over the coming race between Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollum, their best shot in a decade at winning the governorship and ceasing to be an irrelevant minority in Florida government.

To them and many pundits, Sink seems a clear front-runner - a fresh face who won a statewide race in 2006 in her first try for public office, with the demographic edge of gender plus a business background.

The surge in Democratic voter registration and turnout that helped Barack Obama win the state has Sink backers sensing a win.
"Alex Sink has impressed many pundits, and right now her stock is high," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

Florida Attorney General McCollum, meanwhile, "has not shaken his 'loser' image with the punditocracy," Sabato said.

Nonetheless, he said, "Anyone handicapping the race this early is foolhardy. I'll call it a toss-up."

State Chief Financial Officer Sink announced her candidacy last week, and McCollum is expected to announce Monday morning in Orlando.

No prominent Democrat has expressed interest in challenging Sink in a primary. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson may challenge the attorney general, but the Republican Party is seeking to persuade him to leave the field clear for McCollum.

Sink is the Democrats' first hope for a dominant candidate in years.

When she won the chief financial officer's job in 2006, Sink handily defeated former state Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon, even as Democrats lost every other statewide race on the ballot - to Gov. Charlie Crist, to McCollum for attorney general and to Charles Bronson for agriculture commissioner.

Her 53.5 percent vote total narrowly surpassed both McCollum and Crist's totals.

She was the first new Democratic statewide officeholder since Bill Nelson won the insurance commissioner's office in 1998. He's now a U.S. senator.

McCollum's career contains some downs along with the ups.

After 20 years in Congress, he lost two straight U.S. Senate races - to Nelson in 2000 and to Mel Martinez in a 2004 primary - before his 2006 win.

"Absolutely we're giddy," said Miami Democratic political consultant Derek Newton. "Democrats I've spoken with believe that she is the frontrunner. She's the party's rising star - it's inconceivable to them that she wouldn't be ahead."

But Newton said he wouldn't call Sink the front-runner, and Sink isn't claiming that either.

"We expect a very difficult race," said her spokeswoman, Tara Klimek. "But that said, she's proven her ability to have Floridians be receptive to her message. She's a dynamic person - even in her first election, Floridians were very excited about her."

University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett said Sink's reputation and the political climate may give her an edge.

"In my mind, she'd be a slight favorite at the outset based on Barack Obama's win in 2008 and the huge surge in Democratic registration and turnout," he said.

But he conceded polling doesn't back that up. "It's an educated guess at this point."

Many experts attributed McCollum's losses in his 2000 and 2004 races in part to a reputation for partisanship from his high-profile involvement in the 1999 impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Jewett said McCollum probably still suffers "a little hangover from back then," but that his image has improved.

Read the entire Tampa Tribune analysis here:

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