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With Jeb's Help, GOP Hopes to Hold Foley's Seat

Republicans believe they have a good shot at holding Florida's 16th District, the seat vacated by Rep. Mark Foley after news broke about his inappropriate contacts with House pages.

Joe Negron
Joe Negron, center, on the campaign trail in Florida's 16th District. (Getty Images)

National Republicans have invested in ads attacking Democratic nominee Tim Mahoney, and now the state party is bringing out the big gun -- outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

Bush appears in a new ad for state Rep. Joe Negron (R), the man chosen to receive all the votes that are cast for Foley on Election Day. Because Foley left the race so late, his name can't be replaced on the ballot.

Bush takes the Foley scandal head-on in the new Negron commercial.

"We're all angry and upset by what's happened with Mark Foley," Bush says to the camera, "but maintaining control of Congress is important because it's a dangerous world." The governor then runs through Negron's curriculum vitae, noting that he is a "dedicated husband and father of three" and "a man of character who will make us proud again."

The heavy emphasis on Negron's family values credentials in the Bush ad is aimed at drawing a bright line of demarcation between him and Foley. The ad's tag line --"leadership we can trust" -- further drives that values message home. The hope is that reliable Republicans decide that having the GOP maintain control of Congress is more important than sending a signal that Foley's behavior is unacceptable.

Gov. Bush's willingness to spend his political capital (to borrow a phrase from his brother) shows the import Republicans are placing on holding this seat. Bush retains a strong popularity rating in Florida after two terms in office: A Survey USA poll testing the approval numbers of every U.S. governor, Bush scored a 59 percent approval/39 percent disapproval score -- the 20th most-liked governor in the country.

Given those numbers it's not surprising that state Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) has cast his gubernatorial campaign as the logical succession to eight years of Bush. Polls show Crist as a favorite against Rep. Jim Davis (D).

While Bush's popularity may be transferable in the governor's race, it's less clear that he will be able to save the Foley seat for Republicans. A Research 2000 survey showed Mahoney with a 48 percent to 41 percent edge over Negron, but Negron's name won't appear on the ballot.

Still, this is a solidly Republican district that went for President Bush by eight points in 2004 -- three points better than he did statewide.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 19, 2006; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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