John Morgan’s political ringmaster ruse and why he’s unlikely to take center stage

by | Jan 7, 2024

In the high-stakes courtroom of Florida politics, the Sunshine State’s most famous superlawyer, John Morgan, is once again posturing as if giving serious thought to the idea of running for political office. With an ego at least as big as his waistline, Morgan seems to relish the “will he, won’t he” dance as much as a second trip through the buffet line. But if this were a John Grisham legal thriller, the basic plot premise would hinge on whether the protagonist would ultimately show up to court.

Morgan’s periodic political flirtations have become almost as famous as his “for the people” billboards. Every few years, as predictable as Florida’s hurricane season, he hints at a gubernatorial run, whetting the appetite of the state’s liberal legacy media, so starved are they for a left-leaning populist champion. He’s floated trial balloons before, casting a rotund shadow over the political landscape, but the balloon always fades from sight and is soon forgotten.

Maybe this time will be different, but I’m pressing X to doubt.

Despite the boy-who-cried-wolf tone of Morgan’s latest series of social media outbursts (warning – language), they were nonetheless noteworthy, in part because in addition to the usual posturing, he also claimed to have more cash to splash on a political campaign than the state’s current heavyweight champion of campaign spending, former Florida Governor-turned U.S. Senator Rick Scott.

As one who’s at least vaguely familiar with Scott’s own vast wealth, I can assure you that Morgan’s claims about his own riches are eye-opening, in part because he’s either vastly underestimating Scott’s net worth, or Morgan himself is sitting somewhere well north of a billion bucks himself. Either way, a showdown of that magnitude would be quite the spectacle, and I’m here for it.

Personally, I’m not buying it. Make no mistake, though, I don’t doubt that Morgan has piles upon piles of cash earned mostly from his day job as a trial lawyer. But I doubt that he’s willing to risk so much just for a shot at being governor of Florida.

Why would he want the job?

For starters, throwing one’s hat into the political arena means a political candidate instantly alienates a sizable chunk of the adult voting population.  For a guy like Morgan, who enjoys playing the role of a populist champion, his political candidacy carries reputational risks that I don’t think he’s willing to take. Morgan presents himself as a winner, whether that’s in a court room, a boardroom or just in general. A defeat at the ballot box might put a sizable dent in his legacy and his ego.

There are other potential dangers to his brand, too. Candidates in Florida are required to file financial disclosure documents that, at least in theory, help inform the public where the candidate’s wealth comes from. In Morgan’s case, perhaps most of it did come from legal fees, but my guess is that he also now holds sizeable investments in a variety of companies. Unless he’s made those investments with a careful and discerning eye toward a future political run, chances are there’s plenty of fun to be had at Morgan’s expense poking holes in his populist champion image.

Suffice it to say that center-right media outlets across the nation would have a field day sifting through those disclosures and posting their findings for all to see.

Aside from all that, there are the actual politics to consider. In Morgan’s case, he’s long championed liberal causes, from legal marijuana to California-style minimum wage laws, and yet he fancies himself as an independent. Why? Well, probably because he doesn’t share all of the radical political views championed by modern Democrats, and it wouldn’t take long for the activists in that party to smoke him out. And so in Morgan’s posturing, he’s suggested that were he to run, he’d run as an independent candidate.

Despite the fact that there’s a large and growing number of independent voters in Florida, running as an independent candidate doesn’t mean you automatically get their support. An independent political campaign in the Sunshine State is almost certainly a losing strategy, one that Charlie Crist himself couldn’t pull off back in 2010. The main problem: there’s no such thing as a unified set of independent political beliefs that independent voters are willing to get excited about. Their views are all over the map, pulling partially from one side or the other. Capturing the popular zeitgeist isn’t easy, and Morgan isn’t likely to find lightning in a bottle in 2026, either. That would leave him caught in a nasty crossfire between the Democratic nominee and the Republican counterpart – not a fun place to be.

Despite all this, Morgan may be serious this time around. In that case, buckle up, because he’s every bit a media genius cut from the same showman cloth as Donald Trump.  He is a man who intuitively understands the news cycle and how it influences public perception, and he’s never met a microphone he didn’t like or a spotlight he couldn’t fill.

In the end, John Morgan’s political tango is like a high-wire act without a safety net – it might be thrilling to watch but it’s also fraught with personal peril. In the Sunshine State’s political circus, Morgan is both the ringmaster and the clown, adept at keeping us all entertained. But don’t buy your tickets just yet, because the circus might not be coming to town.


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