Florida Insiders: John Morgan is strongest Dem for governor, but Gwen Graham probably wins primary
Personal injury lawyer John Morgan is scheduled to address the Tampa Tiger Bay Club today, which means Florida's political world once again considers whether he does or does not sound like a probable candidate. The man himself tells me he is more likely to run than I suspect he is, but many of Florida's savviest political operators also have their doubts.
Our latest Florida Insider Poll finds that nearly 70 percent of the 188 campaign consultants, political scientists, party activists, money-raisers and lobbyists we surveyed doubt the wealthy Orlando area attorney who bankrolled the successful medical marijuana ballot initiative will enter the race.
But nearly 47 percent also think Morgan would be the strongest Democratic nominee for governor in 2018 among the most likely major candidates. Nearly 39 percent said former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, 6 percent said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, 5 percent said wealthy businessman and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and 3 percent said Orlando businessman Chris King.
That's the good news for Morgan's gubernatorial deliberations. The bad? Less than 1 in 3 said they expect he would win the Democratic gubernatorial primary, versus 47 percent for Graham, 10 percent Gillum, 8 percent Levine, and 3 percent King.
"Run, John, Run! When talking with FL Democratic leaders, he is the one potential candidate that excites everyone. Unfortunately for Democrats, I don't think he will ultimately run," said one Democrat participating in the unscientific survey.
Said a Republican: “Democrats will probably do what they usually do and select the most moderate candidate who they think will appeal across the board. Unfortunately for them this strategy doesn't seem to work unless your name is Bill Nelson and you have lame opponents. Though Graham is probably the best ‘normal’ Democratic candidate. If Morgan runs then John Morgan would likely be the best to inspire turnout on the Democratic side."
"John Morgan's first love is family and firm. He knows, as the marketing wizard he is, that if Phil Levine runs $20 million of ads of his Polk Co drunken video, it will damage the Morgan Brand and that is why he will not run," said a Democrat. “The turnout in Florida this past election was 1 percent more Republican -- that should terrify the Democrats going into a midterm when they don't perform as well as in presidential cycles."
That's probably also why 69 percent of the Florida Insiders predicted a Republican will win the 2018 gubernatorial election to succeed term-limited Gov. Rick Scott.
The two biggest names on the Republican side are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow, who seems all but sure to run, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, who seems less than a sure thing. Still, 78 percent said they expect Corcoran to run, and 22 percent doubted it.
"Corcoran -- I think that running for governor is his fallback," one Republican said. "His attacks on Rick Scott only point towards a primary in the U.S. Senate race. Rick Scott's approval numbers have been trending up since the battle with Corcoran, so it may be that Corcoran falls back into the governor’s race, even though he doesn't have a realistic path to victory in a 2, 3, or 4-way race."
"No way the Republican race for governor is a two-person race. It'll never come down to Putnam and Corcoran," another Republican predicted. "Getting a group of your cigar-smoking buddies to elect you speaker is one thing, getting a plurality of statewide Republicans to like you is another story."
Other Republicans looking at running for governor include state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, and Gov. Scott is said to have been trying to recruit an outsider businessperson like himself. In a Putnam vs. Corcoran primary, though, 82 percent said Putnam would win.
"Adam Putnam should be our next governor as long as he runs a quality campaign, and he's certainly capable of doing so," a Republican said. "However, if Morgan decides to run all bets are off -- he could be the Democrats' Trump card in Florida."
Finally we asked our Florida Insiders to assess Donald Trump's first 100 days in office. Nearly 1 in 4 said somewhat or very good, while 44 percent said very bad, 18 percent said somewhat bad and nearly 14 percent were neutral.
Our pool of insiders this month included 98 Republicans, 80 Democrats and 10 people registered to neither major party. We allow them to weigh in anonymously to encourage honest answers because many are actively involved in some of the races we ask about. You'll note John Morgan, for instance, among this month's political insiders:
Slater Bayliss, Nikki Lowrey, Barry Edwards, Brian Crowley, Pete Dunbar, Amber Stoner, Bob Graham, Jeff Johnson, Tom Alte, Richard DeNapoli, John Wehrung, Dominic Calabro, Ken Jones, Meredith O'Rourke, Don Hinkle, Greg Blair, Brad Coker, Katie Bohnett, Dean Cannon, Ellen Freidin, Van Poole, Erik Kirk, Jamie Miller, Gus Corbella, Leslie Wimes, Steve Vancore, Stephen Bittel, Josh Geise, David Ramba, Pablo Diaz, Joe Gruters, Julia Woodward, Kristen Dougherty, Mac Stipanovich, Cory Tilley, Geoffrey Becker, Brian Franklin, John French, Chris Hartline, John Morgan, Darrick D. McGhee, Jack Seiler, Nancy Texeira, Richard Gentry, Tim Baker, Tre Evers, Scott Barnhart, Christian Ulvert, Jon Costello, Christian Ziegler, Susie Wiles, Beth Leytham, Ashley Bauman, Towson Fraser, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Beth Leytham, Ashley Bauman, Towson Fraser, Stephanie McClung, Frank Tsamoutales, Screven Watson, Karl Koch, Phillip Thompson, Zachariah Zachariah, Peter Wallace, Jason Unger, Max Steele, Jason Altmire, Alex Sink, David Bishop, Jim Rimes, Kathy Mears, George Riley, Rodney Barreto, Steve Uhlfelder, Erin VanSickle, Fred Cunningham, Meredith O'Rourke, Rich Ramos, Ron Bilbao, Doc Dockery, Jackie Lee, Scott Arceneaux, Alex Patton, Marc Reichelderfer, Susannah Randolph, Andy Ford, Evelun Perez-Verdia, Bernie Campbell, Jim Holton, Kirk Pepper, Bud Shorstein, Marion Hammer, Mike Hamby, Darryl Paulson, Ana Cruz, Jack Hebert, Richard Swann, Wayne Bertsch, Brian Goff, Matthew Isbell, Nick Hansen, Sarah Rumpf, Rick Wilson, Kevin Cate, David Johnson, Anthony Bonna, Hayden Dempsey, Brian Hughes, Patrick Slevin, Paul Mitchell, Abel Harding, Matthew Van Name, Steve Schale, Monica Russo, Rich Heffley, Jim Cherry, Sean Philippi, Patrick Manteiga, Mark Ferrulo, Doug Kaplan, Franco Ripple, Ashley Walker, David Mica, Jim Davis, Henry Kelley, Jim Horne, Ryan Banfill, Ron Gunzburger, Robin Rorapaugh, Christian Camara, Eric Jotkoff, Jack Furnari, Ann Herberger, Damien Filer, Thomas Grigsby, Pete Mitchell, Chris Hand, Mike Williams, Mike Fasano, Alan Clendenin, Aubrey Jewett, John Dowless, Clarence Mckee, Beth Matuga, Dave Aronberg, Cindy Graves, Edie Ousley, Jim Kitchens, Steve Geller, Stafford Jones, David Beattie, Nan Rich, Susan Glickman, Mark Zubaly, Mike Hanna, Christina Johnson, Kirk Fordham, Gayle Andrews, Nancy McGowan, April Salter, Karen Unger, Gregory Wilson, Greg C. Truax, Jon Mills, Bill Lee, Marty Fiorentino, Bob Poe, Bill Helmich, April Schiff, Betty Castor, Bob Sparks, Matt Bryan, Jason Roth, Ron Pierce, Tony DiMatteo, Javier Manjerres, Kathleen Shanahan, Seth McKee, David Rancourt, Roly Marante, Frank Mirabella, Jon Ausman, Paula Dockery, Husein Cumber, Lucy Morgan, Christina Baker, Stephanie Kunkel,Chris Cate