Why, oh, why is the

Why, oh, why is the Florida Senate race being ignored so universally? It’s likely to be the closest race in the country, and is in, arguably, the swingiest state in the U.S. Also, the cast of characters is amusing. There’s former Rep. Bill McCollum [R-FL], who died hard against Sen. Bill Nelson [D-FL] four years ago, and who will likely lose again if he wins the nomination this year. But it’s not that he’s extreme; on the contrary, he voted to expand the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation, and supports embryonic stem cell research. He’s just a bad campaigner. So he’d be the person I’d most like to win this primary. Then there’s the Bush Administration’s recruit, former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez [R-FL], who was losing to McCollum by a fair amount until very recently, when he started attacking McCollum from the right on gay rights and stem cells. Ironically, he was recruited as a moderate in the race. However, the strategy seems to be working, at least in the primary:

Buoyed by his ties to the White House, Mel Martinez has wrested a lead away from Bill McCollum in the Republican race for the U.S. Senate, a poll showed Thursday.

Martinez, a former Orange County chairman from Orlando, is the choice of 33 percent of GOP likely voters heading into Tuesday’s primary, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey done for the Orlando Sentinel and WESH-NewsChannel 2.

McCollum, a former member of Congress from Longwood, won 27 percent

The other candidates – Johnnie Byrd [R-FL], an extremist social conservative who quit the Episcopal Church after Gene Robinson’s consecration (full disclosure: I happen to be a Robinson Episcopalian), businessman Doug Gallagher [R-FL], and Clinton/Cheney hater Larry Klayman [R-FL] – have no chance of winning:

Coral Gables businessman Doug Gallagher is a distant third with 12 percent, while Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City drew 7 percent.

Notice that Klayman isn’t even mentioned. I had thought that my old Senator and professional nutjob Bob Smith was in the running, but he doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the poll, or on Politics1’s list of the candidates. Hmm. Meanwhile, it seems that the Democratic nomination is a done deal (free registration required):

With less than a week to go before Tuesday’s primary, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor continues to hold a double-digit lead over main rival Peter Deutsch, according to a poll for the Orlando Sentinel and WESH-NewsChannel 2.

The survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research and released Wednesday, shows that Castor leads with 45 percent of likely Democratic voters. Deutsch had 31 percent, and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas had 9 percent, with 14 percent undecided. Hollywood businessman Bernard Klein had 1 percent.

Penelas, if you remember, helped us lose in 2000. Al Gore has already expressed his anger:

Gore told the Miami Herald that Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, who faces a three-way Senate primary, was the “single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the [2000] campaign anywhere in America.”

I’ve already mocked Peter Deutsch, so I guess that leaves me supporting Castor. I guess that’s good. Anyone who keeps Graham’s seat is okay in my book.

P.S. Sorry for the weird cut-off before; I have no idea what that was about.

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