Political Junkie’s Junkie

Political junkies attending last week’s Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club luncheon were treated to something other than candidate-speak. Served up were election postmortems by the Bay Area’s consummate political junkie, the University of South Florida’s Susan MacManus.

Over the last decade, the USF political scientist and author has been carving out a national name for herself — and USF — from Time magazine to USA Today . The homegrown MacManus and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia are among the more frequently quoted sources nationally.

MacManus had a number of interesting takes on what happened here in Florida. A sampler:

* “Senator Bob Graham should have been draped around Bill McBride — not Gore or Clinton or Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.”

* “You can’t run a single-issue campaign in such a diverse state.”

* “McBride exasperated his staff by refusing to do mock debates.”

* Re: Voters re-electing Bush, yet passing the class-size amendment he was so adamantly — even deviously — opposed to. MacManus said it really wasn’t the dichotomy it seemed. McBride gets credit for having “pushed the agenda” on education, which resonated with enough voters, she noted. And Bush, she said, got credit for knowing how to be governor. As a result, “Voters thought Bush was the better person to push it” to implementation, opined MacManus.

* “The independent voter is what’s happening. One fifth of Floridians are independents. The swing group went heavily Republican.”

* Jeb Bush’s out-of-school comments on ‘devious plans,’ lesbian references and smug debate demeanor “should have been enough to lose.”

* The attack ads in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, where Republican challenger Ginny Brown-Waite squeaked by Democratic incumbent Karen Thurman, were the worst of the worst. Actually, “hideous,” assessed MacManus.

* Re: Jeb Bush’s second term. “His first four years will seem like a picnic.” His challenges, opined MacManus, are hardly limited to the daunting likes of DCF, the bullet train, the class-size amendment, roads, water, et al. They also include a “crazy Florida Legislature” and “trouble with his own cabinet. Look for a lot of jockeying (for Jeb’s job in 2006).”

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