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The case for Sen. Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Supporters of U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami say he's seriously considering giving up his House seat to serve the rest of Mel Martinez's Senate term. Gov. Charlie Crist said Friday that he's on the shortlist.

"To my surprise, Lincoln is seriously considering filling out the questionnaire and putting his name in the hat,'' said lobbyist/fundraiser Ana Navarro. "It's a historical opportunity where he feels he can make a difference. He is willing to lose his House seat in order to serve the state of Florida in the Senate."

Because Diaz-Balart's name did not surface immediately when Martinez announced he would quit, the prospect of him seeking the appointment -- and that his brother, Mario Diaz-Balart would run for his more Republican-friendly seat -- is creating political upheaval in an already topsy-turvy election cycle. That would leave Mario's seat open, possibly for former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is considered a longshot against Crist for Senate. (Both Mario and Marco would have to move.)

"I would urge Mario to run for the seat because of the changing demographics in his district,'' Navarro said. "It's adjacent to his district and has the same issues but has a much stronger Republican base.''

Navarro, who has been a fierce critic of Crist, said there could be political fallout if he chose lobbyist and former Secretary of State Jim Smith -- another name on the shortlist -- over Diaz-Balart.

"If Lincoln sends in that questionnaire and Crist did not choose him, it would be an insult to him and to the Cuban-American community,'' she said. "It would be very hard to explain how you appoint a lobbyist with no federal experience over a guy who has been Congress for last 17 years.''

Navarro added: "He's the one guy who would hit the ground running and not need a map to find the Capitol. He's a fiscal conservative and a social conservative who is also viewed as a Hispanic leader nationally, so Charlie could score some points with the Hispanic community that he just antagonized by opposing the Sotomayor nomination. It's a must-win community for him in Florida.''

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