Wednesday, May 10, 2006

National Journal: Conditions Right for Bense

National Journal (subscription required) reports this morning that while Allan Bense declined last year to declare for Bill Nelson's Senate seat, the challenges that stopped him then have all been addressed:

In Florida, It's Almost High Noon For Senate Race Decision

Al Cardenas, a top Washington lobbyist and former Florida GOP chairman, said Tuesday that Republicans have removed the major political obstacles standing in the way of Florida state House Speaker Allan Bense entering the GOP Senate primary against Rep. Katherine Harris.

"It's a gut check for him," Cardenas said in an interview. "That's the last box to check."

...Cardenas said the conditions for a Bense Senate candidacy were not right last year when he turned down party efforts to recruit him into the race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

At that time, Cardenas said Bense was worried a Senate campaign would interfere with his legislative work, Harris appeared to be a credible challenger to Nelson, and state party leaders were not publicly prepared to endorse Bense.

"Her campaign is just not going to do well. There are a lot of reasons for her not to lead the ticket this year," Cardenas said of Harris. "Now most prominent Republicans that are urging him to run are now doing so publicly."

Harris has been dogged in recent weeks by reports of her ties to former defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty to charges of bribing former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif.

Even before those revelations, GOP strategists have feared that Harris would polarize Florida voters, who remember Harris' contentious role in the 2000 presidential race. Her campaign in recent months has also suffered from a steady loss of key campaign staff and consultants.

Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday he doubts Harris can defeat Nelson in the general election, and has publicly urged Bense to consider the race. Cardenas said "all the political questions have been answered," and said Bense's decision on the race now rests largely on personal considerations.

...If he runs, Bense faces the prospect of a tough primary campaign against Harris, who filed her campaign paperwork Monday and has vowed to remain in the race.

Cardenas said a spirited primary would be good for Bense if he is nominated, because it would boost his name recognition statewide. While he is well known in the state's civic and political community, Cardenas said Bense is not widely known by the public.

He added that Bense would "absolutely" have access to the millions of dollars needed to wage a primary and general election campaign.

He noted Harris' decision to spend $10 million of personal wealth in her campaign triggers the "millionaires' amendment," possibly allowing Bense to accept up to $12,600 from an individual donor. By Mark Wegner

If you don't want to wait for Bense to get in, and want to challenge Ben Nelson yourself, the form is here. Filing deadline is noon on Friday.

Don't wait until the last minute though; I bet Bense will have gotten into the race by then.

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