NATONAL GOP NOTABLES STILL WORRY ABOUT "LIGHTNING ROD" HARRIS
I've not mentioned House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City) in a possible U.S. Senate primary, as he had previously sounded as though he was not truly interested and had expressed support in Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota) and her bid to unseat incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson.
However, the Miami Herald and Tallahassee Democrat both have stories this morning noting that Bense now says he has been asked by both the White House and Governor Jeb Bush to consider making a GOP primary race out of it, as well as officials with the National Republican Senatorial Committee...headed by Senator Elizabeth Dole (R - North Carolina). The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that several Republican sources tell it that the President's senior advisor and political adviser, Karl Rove, is supportive of the effort to get Bense into the race.
While Bense says he is focused on staying on as House Speaker for the next year, he's not completely discarding the possibility noting that he is considering the race. He has also stated that he may run for state Chief Financial Officer.
Not only that, but the St. Petersburg Times' Lucy Morgan reports this morning that Bense is not the only one receiving calls to run. Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) says he hasn't been contacted by the White House, but other Republicans who doubt Harris' ability to defeat Nelson in a one-on-one battle have urged him to enter.
Harris told reporters earlier this month that she will officially announce her candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat in July. But while she has great name recognition and appeal to solid conservatives statewide, Ms. Harris is seen as a lightning rod because of her dual role as Secretary of State --- the state official whose responsibility includes elections --- and co-chair of President Bush's 2000 Florida campaign. Democrats will not allow people to forget that, and are already using it in fundraising efforts here.
You may remember that the Bush Brothers discouraged Ms. Harris from seeking the Senate seat last year when Bob Graham retired so that Mel Martinez could make the race, which he eventually won. It was believed at the time that a deal had been made that in exchange for staying out of last year's race Ms. Harris would receive the party's blessing in 2006. It seems clear now that 1) no such deal was on the table, or if there was, it's being broken, and 2) Ms. Harris is making it clear that she believes that this is her time, and there won't be any way to keep her from what she believes is her destiny.
And (thanks to Florida Politics for the heads up!), some updated poll figures. The latest poll from usually Republican-leaning Strategic Vision, based in 1200 registered Florida voters aged 18+ taken June 9-13, asked about a possible Harris-Nelson race:
If the election were held today for United States Senate, whom would you support, Bill Nelson, the Democrat or Katherine Harris, the Republican?
Bill Nelson 48%
Katherine Harris 42%
And since I noticed Senator Elizabeth Dole earlier, here she is with GOP Congresswomen Harris and Ginny Brown-Waite (R - Crystal River) at a rally for two female conservative judicial nominees, Patricia Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. I wonder if Ms. Harris thought to get the knife out from her back after leaving that photo op...