A Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday found that about nine in 10 Florida voters did not know enough about the four Republicans running to succeed Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate to have an opinion of them. And probably more than a few people in that poll exaggerated their awareness of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, defense contractor Todd Wilcox, and U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Ron DeSantis so they could sound better informed.
So we were especially interested in checking out the foursome’s rare joint appearance in Tampa Saturday to see if anyone stood out before a crowd of several hundred activists and gathered for the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting. Conventional political wisdom has it that northeast Florida’s DeSantis, an Iraq War veteran and alum of Yale and Harvard Law, is the anti-establishment candidate, while Jolly and Lopez-Cantera are vying to emerge as the mainstream conservative alternative. Wilcox, a Special Forces and CIA combat veteran from Orlando, is a political newcomer and wildcard underdog.
None of these guys stood out Saturday, either as especially strong or especially weak. They spoke for about 10 minutes each, and barely mentioned one another. Some impressions:
Strongest anti-Washington message. Former state House member and Miami-Dade property appraiser Lopez-Cantera, 41 embraced that most effectively. “Washington candidates and Washington elected officials are very good at telling you what the problem is, they’re very good at pointing fingers. ... What they’re not very good at getting things done. I’m tired of it. I’ve been here in Florida getting things done, I’ve been here in Florida doing things while others only talk about it.”
Most substantive. Jolly, 42, ticked off the most issue positions everything from budgeting intricacies to opposition to Race to the Top education funding, to immigration, to veterans health care and trade.
Most absurd hyperbole. DeSantis, 36, came close: “I am sick and tired of an administration that treats Raul Castro and (Iran’s) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, better than it treats the prime minister of Israel.”