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Endorsement Elite: Florida Republicans

Welcome to the second installment of The Fix's "Endorsement Elite" feature -- a look at the five most important endorsers in a series of states that set to hold presidential primaries or caucuses before or on February 5.

Today we tackle the Republican side of the Florida presidential primary, which is set for Jan. 29. The biggest names in Sunshine State GOP circles -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and current Gov. Charlie Crist -- don't make our Elite list because no one we talked to who knows Florida politics believes either man will take sides in the primary. We deal in the politics of the possible here at The Fix so this list represents the most important endorsers who either have or have the potential to throw their political heft behind one of the candidates.

(For more on the idea behind the Endorsement Elite and a look at the Florida Democrats who made the list, check out this post.)

THE ENDORSEMENT ELITE: FLORIDA REPUBLICANS

Marco Rubio: Although only 36 years old, Rubio, the newly installed speaker of the state House, makes our Elite list. Why? For several reasons, the most important of which is that Rubio is the most visible Cuban elected official in the state who is entertaining a 2008 endorsement. (The best known Cuban-American lawmaker in the state is Sen. Mel Martinez who, as chairman of the Republican National Committee, has said he will not endorse a candidate.) More than 1 million Cubans live in Florida and have shown a historical tendency to back Republican candidates. Need evidence of the power of the Cuban vote? In 2004, Martinez beat former Rep. Bill McCollum by 162,520 votes statewide in the GOP primary. More than half of Martinez's margin (92,069 votes) came in the Cuban-heavy Miami-Dade County. UNCOMMITTED

Bill McCollum: After losing two consecutive races for Senate (2000 and 2004), McCollum bounced back last November to win a race for state Attorney General. During his time in Congress, McCollum represented an Orlando-area district and gained a reputation as a reliable conservative. (He was one of the House managers in the 1998 impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton.) The combination of McCollumn's conservative bona fides and political base in central Florida makes him a key player in any Republican primary. COMMITTED TO GIULIANI

Sembler
Sembler
Huizenga
Huizenga

Mel Sembler / Wayne Huizenga: Florida is littered with affluent men and women who are constantly courted by candidates for local, state and federal office. Sembler, a shopping center magnate, was intimately involved in Gov. Crist's fundraising operation in 2006. Huizenga, who owns the Florida Marlins (Huizenga sold the Marlins in 1998) and the Miami Dolphins, is a billionaire and among the largest players in South Florida fundraising. BOTH COMMITTED TO ROMNEY

Al Cardenas: The former chairman of the state party, Cardenas is close to Jeb Bush and is widely seen as one of his leading surrogates. He is also a Cuban-American, providing entree into that crucial community. COMMITTED TO ROMNEY

Marion Hammer: Hammer is a longtime Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and a former national president of the organization. She is also the most visible face of the gun rights movement in the state. The NRA has a very active presence in the state and for any candidate looking to solidify his credentials as a true conservative; the support of Hammer and her NRA-Florida branch would be critical for a candidate. UNCOMMITTED

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 14, 2007; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  '08 Endorsement Elite , Eye on 2008  
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