Time to suspend disbelief for just a few minutes and ask yourself these questions: Which well-known Republican was with Donald Trump from the outset of the GOP presidential primary? Which Florida Cabinet Member does Rick Scott get along with the best? Which Florida political figure has the highest favorability rating outside of Rick Scott, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio in the GOP base?
The answer, obviously, is Pam Bondi.
Will someone please explain to me why she isn’t poised to just casually stroll into the Florida governor’s mansion if she decides to run? And please, don’t say “money.”
If she were to get in, she’d be the only woman in what is already guaranteed to be a male-dominated election cycle for governor, giving her an enormous built-in advantage over other likely hopefuls like Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran.
And she’d have another, perhaps even bigger, advantage over Putnam and Corcoran: the lack of a voting record.
As Corcoran found out last week, attack ads in the governor’s race are going to be nasty. Putnam will almost certainly start feeling the same pain soon enough. Having a voting record filled with things that may have once been acceptable but are no longer en vogue, or worse, considered outright hypocrisy, could be a death sentence in a competitive primary.
Bondi’s run for governor would be reminiscent of her explosion onto the political scene in 2010 when, from out of nowhere, she jumped from assistant state attorney to a legitimate candidate, who beat both a sitting lieutenant governor and a former Member of the House of Representatives, among others.
Putnam is – and likely will remain – the frontrunner. He has a big early money lead. But as Agriculture Commissioner, he lacks the best platform to opine on issues relevant to the Republican base. That’s not Bondi’s problem. As Attorney General, she’s constantly in headlines that portray her as an anti-crime and anti-liberal lawyer fighting to preserve conservative principles.
Jack Latvala, the powerful Senate Appropriations chairman, who is in Tallahassee finishing up the second of his two term-limited stints in the legislature, is rough around the edges and has little to no name ID outside of his home region. Again, that’s not Bondi’s problem, according to the recent AIF poll that shows she’s well liked and at least moderately well known among Republican rank-and-file voters. Her favorable / unfavorable rating has her at 54-12.
And then there is Corcoran, the firebrand speaker of the house, who has chosen to go to war with Rick Scott, the most popular Florida-based Republican politician, on an issue the rank-and-file GOP doesn’t understand. Sure, he’s got the conservative high-ground, because “corporate welfare” is a whole lot easier to explain than the benefits of tax incentives, but how much does the average voter in the I-4 corridor even care about that right now?
Corcoran’s own name ID is virtually non-existent, and will require millions of dollars just to establish himself as top-of-mind for Republicans in any eventual primary. And you can bet that while Corcoran is trying to build that name ID, Putnam’s allies will do everything they can to remind those same voters about Corcoran’s inconsistencies when it comes to incentive votes. Again, this isn’t going to be Pam Bondi’s problem because she has no voting record to attack.
But what about Trump University, you say? Surely the attack ad-smiths will cook up something special for her, right?
Maybe. But they’ll have to be extremely careful not to alienate Donald Trump supporters in the process. And spending money on attack ads that tie her to the President of the United States may actually end up helping her.
Don’t forget that if Bondi actually does run, she, too, will have a say in the attack ad wars. And with the likes of Donald Trump and Rick Scott in her corner, she probably isn’t going to have much trouble raising money.
Given the numbers Trump himself was able to rack up here in Florida in the primary, the last thing Putnam or Corcoran want to do is alienate those voters, but it would be a trivial matter for Bondi to do it for them. After all, both men were early Bush supporters in the presidential primary. It wouldn’t take much of a spark for a pro-Bondi PAC to light a raging fire under that dry tinder and doom their chances.
Only one question really remains: does she want to be governor?
She’s clearly well-liked by President Trump. And yet she wasn’t tapped for a role in his administration. Perhaps she has other plans.