The only thing that keeps the race for Marco Rubio’s Florida U.S. Senate from being really contentious is that hardly anyone is paying attention to it yet. Perhaps voters will get interested some time before Nov. 8. Maybe even before the August 30 primary. Right now, Trumpmania and the presidential race are eating up most of the airtime and column inches hereabouts and across the state.
This interest in who will succeed to 1600 is neither surprising nor misplaced in the nation’s biggest swing state. Florida’s 29 electoral votes are more than 10 percent of what it takes to win the White House. (The current RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Mz Hillary up by 3.7 with a thousand political lifetimes left before the general.) Very big medicine.
But the U.S. Senate race is important too. Should Mz Hillary prevail, the Senate would be the only thing to stop her from stocking the federal courts with reliable leftists, many of whom would serve, in the words of the old hymn, “for-ever more.” Republicans hold a majority of four in the Senate now, but the GOP must defend 24 Senate seats while Democrats only have to defend 10. So the top two lines on the Florida ballot are important locally and nationally.
The most likely matchup for the Senate seat is between incumbent Republican Marco Rubio and Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who represents an east coast district that includes northern Palm Beach, as well as Martin and St. Lucie Counties. Murphy leads Orlando area Congressman Alan Grayson in most polls for the Democratic nomination, some by double digits. Murphy has a moderate voting record, in fact he is a former Republican. Grayson is an aged-in-the-barrel liberal.
But before Rubio can strap on either Murphy or Grayson, he has to get past Manatee County (Bradenton) builder, zillionaire, and long-time political financial contributor Carlos Beruff. Beruff, like Rubio, is the son of Cuban immigrants. But this common ethnic background doesn’t make the two men pals. Beruff, a Donald Trump enthusiast, is trying to follow the same I’m-the-honest-outsider path to office as his presidential pick. He helpfully suggests that while he would accomplish great things in office, Rubio is a bone-idle toe rag. He pounds Rubio regularly for his political sins, real and imagined, especially Rubio’s Senate absenteeism while he was running for president.
But Beruff can’t ham it up too much about Rubio’s missed Senate votes. He’s calling Rubio “No Show Marco.” But it seems that Beruff was a no-show himself in nine of the last19 meetings of the board of trustees of State College of Florida in Manatee County, of which Beruff was a member. He’s missed six of seven meetings since October, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Beruff claims to have resigned his board seat in February and to have been wrongly marked absent. Records in Governor Rick Scott’s office show Beruff’s resignation letter was marked March 18.
Like Donald Trump, the candidate Beruff models himself after, Beruff is in no hurry to report his income and financial assets. He’s gotten two extensions from the May 16 reporting deadline, so that he now won’t have to show his financial hand until July 30, a month before the primary and almost two weeks after primary ballots are sent to members of the military and overseas civilians. Whatever he’s worth it’s a lot, as he’s already spent $5 million of his own money on television ads and campaign expenses, and says he willing to spend $15 million more to win the primary.
None of this has much to do with what the U.S. Senate will have to deal with in 2017 and beyond. But this has not been an issue-intensive political cycle, has it?
Such polls as have been taken on this race show that Beruff’s gaudy spending, and his promise to spend more, may be good money after bad. A Data Targeting poll taken the day before and the day of Rubio’s re-entry into the Senate race shows Rubio the choice of 73 percent of Republicans, Beruff the choice of 6 percent. Candidate Todd Wilcox, who has since dropped out of the race, was also the choice of six percent. A News 13/Baynews 9 poll out of Tampa shows Rubio leading Beruff by 63 to 11 percent with 13 undecided.
Beruff supporters like to point to 2009 and 2010 when Marco Rubio himself reversed similarly wretched poll numbers to take the Republican nomination away from the much better-known Charlie Crist. But Beruff has much less time to work his political miracle than Rubio did. The primary is less than two months away. And the $5 million he has already spent (not to mention the $100+ million Jeb! spent trying to win the presidential nomination) demonstrates that a million bucks doesn’t always buy a politician what it used to.