The contention — and not just by the Bill McBride campaign — that Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to sandbag McBride via attack ads to assure a Janet Reno primary continues to look like a credible — but ultimately unsuccessful — strategy.
Even Republican insiders will admit on background that Bush has alienated too many not to be at least theoretically vulnerable. But much less so, they say, if he’s juxtaposed to the Samsonite candidate in the red pick-up.
Moreover, this fall Bush will have to contend with cleverly placed constitutional amendments and weather a torrent of national fund-raising and big-name Democratic surrogates. It’s a given that the flow of money and non-Hollywood heavyweights would be far greater for McBride, the preferred candidate of the party establishment. Then there are the pay-back wild cards represented by the “we-wuz-robbed” and “disenfranchisement” crowd, as well as those anxious to send an economic or civil libertarian message to George via Jeb.
There’s also a gut feeling — and not just limited to the McBride campaign — that McBride’s late media push plus some last-minute, epiphany-like assessments of Reno’s candidacy, persona and health will prove determinative.
Granted, Reno still has — however eroding — good poll numbers, and McBride didn’t take full advantage of last week’s debate forum to effectively introduce himself to Floridians. But one state GOP official — with Tampa roots and connections within the Oval Office — still unequivocally predicts: “McBride all the way.”
And he’s hardly pleased about that prospect.