Outlook: Solid Democratic
August 2, 2006 Update:
Incredibly, the saga of Katherine Harris continues and we won’t even attempt to recount the full dimensions of the soap opera that is Harris. But, many Republicans–understanding that she would lose to Senator Bill Nelson in a landslide come November–are now turning to a little-known Republican candidate, attorney Will McBride, in an attempt to prevent Harris from securing the GOP nomination in September. The effort is unlikely to succeed, but the Crystal Ball refuses to rule it out entirely, given the increasingly depressing (for the GOP) polls of the November match-up in the Sunshine State.
June 1, 2006 Update:
All GOP attempts to find a strong opponent for Katherine Harris in the Republican primary failed, and they are stuck with her. You can’t find a respected Republican analyst who believes that Harris has any real chance to win, so Senator Bill Nelson is the very likely victor in November. Having said that, in GOP-leaning Florida, no Democrat can take anything for granted and Nelson must work hard to secure his expected win.
If we were you, dear reader, we’d stop looking for Florida Senate updates. This contest has actually been over for a long time, with Democratic Senator Bill Nelson heading for a second term. If there were any doubt about our long-standing prediction, it was erased yesterday when Congresswoman Katherine Harris captured the GOP nomination to oppose Nelson. Once expected to win overwhelmingly, Harris captured an underwhelming 49 percent against three opponents, all relative unknowns: Will McBride (30 percent), LeRoy Collins, Jr. (15 percent) and Peter Monroe (5 percent). Had those three opponents managed to unite, Harris might well have been defeated. Republicans now face a painful two months when Harris will almost certainly continue her series of gaffes, bizarre pronouncements, and staff firings. It is only a question of how massive Nelson’s victory will be on November 7th, and whether he has any coattails.
As the lone Democrat left in high state office, Senator Bill Nelson expects a strong challenge as he bids for a second term. Yet so far, the most likely Republican nominee is Representative Katherine Harris–yes, the Katherine Harris of 2000 Florida election deadlock fame. The ex-Florida secretary of state, who helped President Bush get his first term, has since won two terms in the U.S. House, but she is not overwhelmingly popular, even in her own district. Nelson couldn’t ask for a better challenger from his perspective, though any Republican nominee in the increasingly Republican Sunshine State cannot be dismissed easily.
But will Harris be the GOP standard bearer? It has already become abundantly clear that some in the White House, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, as well as Governor Jeb Bush, would be very happy if another candidate were nominated. They have been through many possibilities, including Florida House Speaker Allan Bense and former Congressman and MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough. Bense and Scarborough are not running, but Congressman Mark Foley, who almost ran for Senator Bob Graham‘s open seat in 2004, is a real possibility (Foley keeps hinting that he may run, but nothing solid has yet emerged). If Foley gets the nomination, we will reassess this race; but, for now, the incumbent Nelson has a clear edge over Harris.