Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Matt Towery: Florida Key for GOP Hopefuls

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Matt Towery: Florida Key for GOP Hopefuls

Article excerpt

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In recent presidential election cycles, Florida's primary has basically decided the Republican nomination. In 2008, John McCain received the endorsement of then-Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and after winning the sunshine state's primary, never looked back. Even more dramatically, Mitt Romney reversed a loss to Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary by besting the former speaker days later in the Florida contest.

The fight in 2016 for Florida's delegates could once again bring an early and final decision in the race for the GOP nomination, especially if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio emerges as a frontrunner prior to the Florida vote. Should either of them choose not to run, the state would likely support the other as its favorite son.

But what if Bush and Rubio both decide to seek the nomination?

At first blush, Bush would be presumed a clear frontrunner in the state he once governed. But to underestimate Rubio could be a mistake, given his defeat of a heavily favored Charlie Crist in Rubio's first and winning bid for the U.S. Senate.

For Bush, there would be huge advantages to being dubbed the "Republican Establishment" candidate. He could sap big money away from the likes of Mitt Romney. There is usually only enough cash available for one mainstream candidate by the time the primary season gets to the big, delegate-rich states. And with outside Super Pacs playing an increasingly powerful role, the big-name candidates fade quickly if they are out bankrolled.

But Rubio is not to be discounted. Other than his brief dance with "immigration reform," which nearly destroyed his relationship with the more conservative wing of the GOP, he has maintained the sort of profile and record that could make him the darling of conservatives. …

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