Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is now promising a final decision about his presidential aspirations in only a matter of weeks. Currently, his political moves suggest that he is moving toward a national run.
With Rubio repeatedly saying he will not run for two offices simultaneously, an open Florida Senate seat would build even more intrigue into the 2016 election cycle. Sensing this, budding Senate candidates are beginning to float their names as his possible statewide successor.
As in California and Illinois, where a large number of federal, state, and local politicians are testing the waters for individual Senate runs, yesterday’s Sunshine State musings from several political figures are indicative that Florida may soon see a similar parade of office holders positioning themselves for an open US Senate campaign.
Sen. Rubio, himself, began the debate by saying in an interview, when asked who might be lining up to succeed him if he were to run for president, that Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and former House Speaker Will Weatherford would be two potential Republican candidates.
Yesterday, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) indicated that he would seriously consider seeking the Democratic senatorial nomination. Most often mentioned as potential senatorial candidates are Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), the Democratic National Committee chair, Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), Ted Deutch (D-FL-21), and freshman Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), the daughter of former Sunshine State governor and senator Bob Graham (D).
A whole cavalcade of Republicans are included among the statewide aspirants, many from the US House delegation. Among them are: Representatives Jeff Miller (R-FL-1), Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), John Mica (R-FL-7), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16).
In confining our analysis to covering federal office holders, certainly Wasserman Schultz would be a formidable figure in any Democratic primary. She will have an immense national fundraising base to call upon, better than any other candidate. Rep. Murphy, who has twice won a decidedly Republican congressional district, would be an attractive general election candidate but his more moderate voting record may signal problems in a Democratic primary. Grayson may be in the opposite position. Long known as an outspoken partisan ideologue, his acerbic tongue may not play well before a general electorate.
Representatives Deutch and Graham probably won’t run. Deutch is not well enough known throughout Florida to forge a clear victory path, and it is likely that Rep. Graham will want to win at least one re-election before jumping into a statewide contest.
Among the Republican House members, any of the aforementioned could run but with the GOP being in control of the statewide positions it is likely that the lieutenant governor, to whom Sen. Rubio referred, or Attorney General Pam Biondi would have the inside track. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a former US representative, is another name mentioned but he is more likely to run for governor in 2018 when that position becomes open.
We’re not yet even into February of the off-year, and it appears already highly competitive senatorial contests are developing in California and Florida open seats, as well as strong challenges to incumbent senators in Illinois and Pennsylvania. To contrast the last cycle when so many smaller states saw the heavy political Senate action, 2016 is now promising to bring the political theater to the big state stage.