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Bense Says No to Florida Senate Bid

In yet another blow to the White House's attempt to find an alternative to Rep. Katherine Harris (R) in the Florida Senate race, state House Speaker Allan Bense announced this morning he will not make the race.

"While the challenge of running a successful campaign over the next several months was exciting, and while I am confident we would have been successful, ultimately my decision came down to the fundamental question of whether I was willing to spend the next six, 12 or possibly 18 years of my life away from my family and my home serving Florida in the U.S. Senate," said Bense in a statement. "After much thought and prayer, I realized the answer is 'no.'"

Bense's decision virtually ensures that Harris will have the Republican field to herself as the filing deadline in the state is Friday. Bense joins a long list of candidates that national GOPers unsuccessfully sought to recruit to challenge Harris, including Rep. Mark Foley, former Rep. Joe Scarborough and even Bense himself (he was urged to make the race earlier this year but deciced against it in August).

With Harris as the likely nominee, Republicans are headed for a difficult reconciliation period since several top leaders -- including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- have said publicly that Harris simply can't win the race. There have been doubts about Harris among the party's establishment figures since she decided to run due to her divisive role in the 2000 presidential recount. Those concerns have been greatly magnified as Harris has struggled to raise money and lost several iterations of top staff.

Polling shows her trailing Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by double digits and most Republican observers believe she is simply too damaged to win in the fall. Make sure to check The Washington Post tomorrow for more in-depth coverage of the Bense announcement and its impact.

In other Florida news, President Bush said today that he believed his brother Jeb would make a "great president" and is urging him to consider a national bid. "I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if that's his intention or not," President Bush said.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 10, 2006; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Polls are a lot more interesting and informative when they include information about how various sub-groups respond to the various questions. Too many of these data simply report gross results. But what distinguishes particular polls is what they tell us about movements or trends in the "groups below," e. g., residential groups, racial and religious groups, income and educational groups, sex and age groups, etc., etc. Of course, such reports take more time to prepare, but they are worth a whole lot more simple lists of grand totals. Cheers.

Posted by: Donald T Wolfe | May 17, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Fair and Balanced? - I live in the Jacksonville area, over 250 miles from Punta Gorda. The problems you highlighted are either FEMA or local government responsibilities. We went through about 6 hurricanes in 04 and 05 and Jeb came off as very effective during them. The immediate state response to getting relief workers, repair crews, and coordinating with FEMA were pretty effective. I never voted for Jeb or his brother, but based on the last two hurricane seasons, I do not see problems for Jeb if another one strikes. By the way, several analysts thought Jeb's response to the '04 hurricanes helped the Republicans in Florida that year. It also gave him lots of TV time looking like a strong and compassionate leader. He really comes off much better than his brother on TV. FEMA however is a disaster. The tragedy is that it was one of the most effective government agencies under Clinton's FEMA head Witt.

Posted by: JimD | May 12, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

>>>Well, Fair and Balanced?, I agree about W, Cherty and FEMA but Jeb should not be lumped with them on disaster response competence.

Im not all that familiar with Jeb's response in previous storms, but I was implying that there will be considerably more attention paid to his handling of any storms THIS season after the Katrina debacle. Of course, it should go without saying that I hope that there are no emergencies at all, or that Gov Jeb is able to handle them smoothly.

But also, Ive heard there are still FEMA villages in FL after devastation and flooding from previous Hurricanes. As a FL resident, JimD, can you shed any light on that?

Dug a bit, heres what I found:

FEMA's City of Anxiety in Florida
Many Hurricane Charley Victims Still Unsure of Next Step
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 17, 2005; Page A01

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- "Someone killed my dog," sputtered Royaltee Forman, still livid two weeks later.

"They just threw him out the window and hung him with his own leash," he said, convinced that someone broke into his home while he was out. "I mean, what kind of place has this become?"


'FEMA Village' wary of Wilma, still weary from Charley
10/20/05 - USA Today
FEMA Village soon turned into a crowded, crime-ridden neighborhood housing 2,300 people.

"There's lots of drugs, prostitution," says Aida Florit, a chairwoman of the FEMA Village Neighborhood Watch and a board member of Southwest Florida CrimeStoppers. "This place is a haven for drugs. We have child molesters in here."


Heckuva Job Jebby... oy vey... I feel like the deep south is in for some turbulence this hurricane season. Praying for alla ya'll.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | May 11, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

So why in the face of all the predictions about Harris not being able to win is she charging forward? Could it be that she knows very well how to "win" an election in a state where she personally certified a winner back in 2000 that was clearly the looser.

Posted by: FrankD | May 11, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

JimD: thanks very much for your illuminating comments. You can be very sure that CC is taking notes.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | May 11, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"The latter half of '06 should be interesting to say the least. Georgie, Jebby, Cherty and FEMA better get their buns in gear if the GOP wants to keep their heads above water (figuratively) come November" ... Well, Fair and Balanced?, I agree about W, Cherty and FEMA but Jeb should not be lumped with them on disaster response competence. Jeb has actually handled the numerous Florida hurricanes quite competently during his tenure. (I am a Floridian who voted against him twice - did not live in Florida in '94 when he ran and lost or it would have been 3 times). There were some FEMA screw ups over allocation of relief money and loans but the state agencies performed well. Hurricanes are frequent occurrences here and the various agencies involved know their jobs and execute. Jeb is very hands-on and performs quite well as a leader during these emergencies.

I also have to agree that Jeb certainly seems far more intelligent and definitely has a better command of the English language than his older brother. Incidentally, he is married to an Hispanic immigrant. The reason he left Texas, I have read, is that society there would never accept her. I wonder how that would play with the nativist wing of the GOP. They also have a daughter who has struggled with addiction problems. I agree with Mike Dowling that family considerations are probably the major factor in Jeb's reluctance to run. Keep in mind that he has not taken any of the steps a contendor needs to take to plan a run for the White House.

Posted by: JimD | May 11, 2006 8:47 AM | Report abuse

W has ruined the political aspirations for all future Bushes because their crime family will be heavily scrutinized in the coming years. As for Katherine Harris, she is the poster child for what the GOP is all about: corruption and greed.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | May 10, 2006 9:51 PM | Report abuse

As a Floridian who voted against Jeb Bush three times for governor (remember he lost in '94), I can tell you that he is far more intelligent, but every bit as immoral as his brother. He said in his hopefully last campaign, he had "devious plans" to stop a state law that limits class size. Intra-party infighting kept his right wing agenda at bay in this legislative session, but have no boubt, this guy is not the fool his older brother is. His grasp of the the issues after after our recent hurricanes shows why he has retained his popularity in this state. It was amazing to see how the brothers compared.

Keep in mind that Jeb's wife, Columba, hates political life, and might have very stong feelings about the White House. We don't know, because she is a very private person. She's been First Lady for almost eight years, and I can never recall a public statement from her.

My guess is that Jeb will return to the private sector and will make millions of dollars. He will be available to run in the future if the American public ever forgets how bad the previous Bush presidencies were.

As for Harris, we see another example of the immorality of the Bush family and the right wing in general. We can see how they have rewarded their most loyal of soldiers.

Posted by: Mike Dowling | May 10, 2006 8:29 PM | Report abuse

>>>6 months is almost an eternity in politics and things could change.

Esp in Hurricane alley. The latter half of '06 should be interesting to say the least. Georgie, Jebby, Cherty and FEMA better get their buns in gear if the GOP wants to keep their heads above water (figuratively) come November.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | May 10, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

As a Floridian, I agree that Katherine Harris has no chance of beating Senator Nelson. I doubt that her candidacy will sink the GOP on the governor's race, though - the potential Democratic candidates do not have the resources nor the name recognition that the main GOP contendors do. Of course, 6 months is almost an eternity in politics and things could change.

Posted by: JimD | May 10, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Such loyalty from the Bush boys - are you happy katy girl?

such loyalty

BObby Wightman-Cervantes

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | May 10, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

If George W. Bush knows what it takes to make a great president, shouldn't he by definition be a great president? Yeah right.

Posted by: Mike 234 | May 10, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Harris has zero - repeat - zero chance to win her race. She is, as The Fix has pointed out, damaged goods.

As for Jeb Bush, hell will freeze over before he is president. It will take at least two decades for this country to get over the current round of Bush fatigue and by that time Jeb will be to old to run.

And in a more personal opinion, if Hillary Clinton could unite and energize the right for an '08 presidential race, just imagine what another Bushling could do for the left.

Posted by: J. Crozier | May 10, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Just because we know that W. swam in the shallow end of the gene pool, doesn't mean Jeb was in the deep end.

Posted by: jmsbh | May 10, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

If Jeb doesn't think Harris can win then he needs to step up and run himself. Talk, talk, talk--do something Jeb. Run for the Senate. If you are afraid of losing then shut up!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

As long as Jeb controls the ballot boxes Katherine stands a good chance of winning. We know who the supreme court will side with in a dispute.

Posted by: VW Allen | May 10, 2006 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure Jeb would do well in a national race. He may have gone too far in the Terri Schivo affair to separate himself from the extreme religious right. He led the fight down here to keep Mrs. Schiavo on life support, and most Floridians thought it wrong. Any opponent in a national race could come up with some strong 30-second ads.

As for Bense pulling out and leaving the Republican primary to Harris, most of the concerns voiced down here by Florida Republicans address her effect on other Republicans. To quote the St. Petersburg Times story today,

"If she's the Republican candidate, the best we can hope for is that she doesn't bring down the rest of the ticket," said Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and fund-raiser for Attorney General Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor.

So it looks like the real issue is how badly Harris will hurt other Republicans. Democrats here hate her for her role in the 2000 Presidential election with her "felon" voter list. This list, more than any other factor, gave Florida to W. Democrats remember this vividly and can't wait to get out to vote against her--and every other Republican as well.

Posted by: George | May 10, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

After witnessing a combination of 10 years of Bush's bumbling government at the federal level, I don't think a member of that family could get elected dog catcher anywhere in the country. And, as for Harris, she is so obviously nuts she is scary.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 10, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

A Jeb Bush run for the Presidency would be another disaster in the making. George Bush's first term was an unmitigated disaster, his re-election a national tragedy, his second term a study,thus far, in undistilled ineffectiveness. His legacy to Brother Jeb, complete assurance that the American electorate will not be Bush enough to take that option ever again.

Posted by: Big Dave | May 10, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Jeb wants to run for millionaire. He has made many of his contributors here in Florida wealthy; now it will be his turn to collect his "due froms" when he leaves office in January. Once he has built up his personal finances, he will be back--and God help us all.

If you think George W. is a nightmare, Jeb! is infinitely worse. It will take Florida government decades to recover from 8 years "in the Bushes."

Posted by: petronius | May 10, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow, did Daily Kos link to this blog or something? Well, nobody ever said the Post readership was politically balanced.

At the end of the day, the lefty poster who said Jeb doesn't run in 08 because of Bush fatigue had it right. Whether the fatigue is the president's fault or not (I personally dont think the country's health is as dire as the Dems like to make out - yes, gas went up quickly, good lord it's almost kept up with inflation, see Will's op ed from 5/8 Newsweek...unemployment is almost non-existent if you can fog a mirror, the 'endless war' will probably be mostly a memory by 2012 or 2016, and *if*...and I admit it's a big 'if'...the middle east turns positive politically thanks to the Iraq experiment, W will look like a genius.)

Does W want his brother in the WH instead of McCain - sure, wouldn't you? What a selfish guy. Bush's problems are largely due to him trying to come to the center (for whatever reasons) on what he sees as the less important issues (amnesty for illegals, greater education and health spending) while staying conservative where it counts most (judges, GWOT).

I'm sure Jeb does have a long term plan if indeed he plans to run for prez eventually, he'd be stupid not to. He needs to stay somewhat high profile, but more importantly needs to start planting the seeds of campaign organizations and a fundraising apparatus. He'd be best served if he did this under the radar, wooing the 1st string GOP consultants, campaign mgrs, and rainmakers, which is why we don't know about it.

Posted by: JD | May 10, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to add that all this focus by the media on needing someone to beat Sen. Nelson of Florida is perplexing to me. Based on watching him on C-Span, he seems like a very impressive Senator who is intelligent, makes an honest effort to understand the issues and fights for the interests of his state. I realize Republican politicians want more power, but they shouldn't get it at the expense of removing a high-quality senator like Bill Nelson.

Posted by: Jason | May 10, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Jeb wants to wait for '12 or '16, what office does he hold prior to that? Surely he doesn't think he could be in the public sector for very long. Does he want a Cabinet post to spring board to the nomination? Surely he has long term plans if he indeed wants to be president.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

So if Dubya and Daddy want Jebby to run for prez..doesn't that somewhat imply that they don't expect the other non-Bush republicans to make it in '08..McCain included. I bet you they probably want HRC to win the nomination and even the office so Jeby can beat her in '12...see, with these guys its all about power for the Bush name..nothing about the conservatism, the GOP or America..anything that advances the Bush dynasty is good..screw the dimwitted hoodwinked GOP that thinks they actually mean something.

Posted by: Canoli | May 10, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please let it be harris. Nothing could be more fuin than her defeat helping Dems take back florida. It's like a charitable gift of 10 million of her own money to the Dems.

Posted by: will | May 10, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Jeb isn't running for the senate because he knows that being a senator would put him at a disadvantage for his eventual run for the presidency. He's not going to run in '08-- he knows that America has "Bush fatigue" right now, and he would not be well received. My bet is, he's waiting for '12 (if a Dem wins in '08) or '16 (if a Repub wins.) He's still young enough to be viable in either of those election years. Personally, I can't wait until he runs . . . and Barack Obama handily defeats him and sends the Bush dynasty into oblivion!

Posted by: The Caped Composer | May 10, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't Jeb Bush running for the Senate? Is there something there that I haven't heard about--just seems strange that the GOP keeps trying to line up people, yet Jeb himself could run against Harris.

What's the deal?

Posted by: jenniferm | May 10, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Agreed HL...which in turn helps them (slightly) in '08, should they take the governor's mansion.

Also gives us 6 more months of Katherine Harris entertainment. I, for one, am a happy camper!

I honestly think the Repubs would be better off runing no one, so as to no effect the rest of the races in the state.

Posted by: Greg-G | May 10, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Harris being the nominee will definitely help the Democrats in the Governor's race as well

Posted by: H.L. | May 10, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: sam | May 10, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey Chris.... You buried the lead!!!

"George Bush Endorses Jeb Bush for Presidency" should be the headline for your entire newspaper tommorow....... not a few lines thrown in at the bottom of a blog entry about Katherine Harris.

This is big news.
And it makes my stomach turn.

Posted by: Yo Mamma! | May 10, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh the irony of the current prexy saying his brother would make "a really great president." All along, it was assumed that Jeb would be the first to go for the brass ring because he was the, ahem, smart one without any embarrassing stuff in his past.And now, because of his brother, the nation's highest office will likely be beyond reach forever. After we limp through to November '08 with an endless war of choice, a skyrocketing deficit, high gas prices and (probably) a good dose of inflation in the economy, the name Bush will be anathema to American voters at least until Jenna is eligible to run.

Posted by: Jack | May 10, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Two days to go....

Posted by: Ohio guy | May 10, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

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