From Mike Huckabee being introduced by a congressman who said the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage means that Americans can now marry their lawnmower (certainly a boon for Farmersonly.com) to Ted Cruz cooking bacon with a machine gun while the soundtrack to a Cialis commercial blares in the background (also, likely a boon for Farmersonly.com), the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates has delivered ample fodder for those of us in media to chew on, digest and regurgitate as commentary; over the course of his three week campaign alone, The Donald has inspired countless columns (no less than two from yours truly), and after his performance in last week’s debate, The New York Times would’ve been wise to prepare the Sunday Review as the Donald Review.
As we learned from shows like Jon and Kate Plus 8 and 19 Kids and Counting, large groups of unserious humans make for the best reality TV. Which is why the race for a Florida Senate seat, currently occupied by the ever-popular, ever-dry-mouthed, speed-boat-buyin’-when-he’s-broke-as-a-joke Marco Rubio, has the potential to be so, so entertaining.
As of today, there are seven candidates vying for the seat (five Republicans and two Democrats).
But should you care?
Well, the victor will play a role in deciding how the country will tackle the most pressing issues of our lifetime, including wide-ranging national matters like Wall Street regulation, student loans, climate change, Keystone XL, and reproductive rights, while influencing state and local discussions on federal funding for Obamacare, the balance between development and conservation, our relationship with Cuba, and more. But — of greater import in today’s climate — will you be entertained by this race? Certainly.
Here are just a few reasons to pay attention:
Alan Grayson. Republicans are banking on the wildly popular Democratic congressman’s candidacy to impact the Senate race in much the same way The Donald has impacted the Republican primary. That is to say, they’re hoping for a bull in a china shop. However, as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has demonstrated, the base of the party has moved left, and though Grayson can be brash and inappropriate — he once said his supporters would be willing to crawl naked over hot coals for him — his connection to Senator Sanders may lend Grayson the credibility he needs to overcome any gaffs. Furthermore, just the thought of joint Sanders/Grayson rallies in the Sunshine State is entertainment enough.
Local Connection. With the looks of a young Ted Kennedy and the politics of an old Ted Nugent, Ponte Vedra resident and former Navy Jag Congressman Ron DeSantis was deemed the favorite by Tampa Bay Times political columnist Adam C. Smith. With two Ivy League degrees, a 2012 Donald Trump endorsement, and a yacht-load of wealthy bundlers, this Tea Partier is certainly on the rise. So far though, DeSantis has struggled to be recognized statewide among a crowded field.
Dems want to steal this seat, bad. For the Blue-ifying of Florida to continue, Dems need big turnouts in metropolitan counties like Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and, yes, Duval (which has 20,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans). The fact that 2016 is not a midterm election year should give Democrats some confidence, but rest assured we’ll see plenty of money spent — much of which to be spent by both sides on highly amusing attack ads (don’t forget Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy has a closetful of skeletons) — here locally.
Republicans are looking to stand out from the pack: Rubio remains wildly popular in South Florida — which undoubtedly bolsters his conviction that he is a viable presidential candidate — and he’s earned name recognition on a national scale. But the five Republican candidates opting for his seat are desperately anonymous. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s claim to “fame” is his current title, which — let’s face it — most voters likely believe to be a military rank. Rep. David Jolly rose to “prominence” after a narrowly won race in a district whose lines have been ordered to be redrawn in such a way that he stands virtually no chance of being reelected there. And let’s not forget newcomer Todd Wilcox or Rep. Jeff Miller … better yet, let’s forget about them. It remains to be seen how any of these candidates will go about raising his profile, but in recent weeks, Planned Parenthood has been an easy target for each man to pilot-test some grandstanding.
National Spotlight: As has been the case in the last few presidential elections, Florida will be a big deal again. Many in the know say the likely Republican nominee, Jeb Bush, has based much of his electability on his ability to win his home state (rumor has it Bush will choose Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a running mate, essentially locking up the two most important swing states). The spotlight will shine white-hot on the state of Florida, heating up these local races. These contests have far-reaching consequences for each party’s direction. Patrick Murphy vs. Alan Grayson (on the Democratic side) pits an establishment-supported Dem against a more progressively minded faction of the party. And the range of Republican candidates is set to reinvigorate what’s left of the support for the Tea Party in Florida and beyond in a way Cialis (or pork cooked by heavy automatic weapons) never could.
Get your popcorn ready.