Florida Republicans will elect their party chairman on Saturday and, knowing current Chairman Blaise Ingoglia knack for whipping and counting votes, I'd be surprised if Sarasota State Committeeman Christian Ziegler knocks him off. But state Rep. Ingoglia is not a lock, does face a serious challenge, and the race has some pretty juicy undercurrents and sub plots thanks to Ingoglia's second job as a member of the Florida House.
As a state Representative, Ingoglia is widely viewed as House Speaker "Richard Corcoran's guy." And Corcoran, fairly or not, is viewed as the de facto state GOP boss. That's especially true since Gov. Rick Scott pretty much disowned the Republican Party of Florida after its leaders elected Ingoglia party chairman, rather than his preferred candidate. Neither the governor nor the Florida Senate nor any Cabinet members is aggressively raising money for the Republican Party of Corcoran/Ignolia.
That's why this Florida GOP chairman's race at least symbolically represents several intra-party proxy battles:
**Scott vs. Corcoran (though there is no sign Scott is actively helping Ziegler).
**Likely gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam vs. potential gubernatorial candidate Corcoran.
**Scott vs. Marco Rubio. Rubio endorsed Ingoglia, while Scott has stayed officially neutral. Who really leads the Florida GOP today, the senator working well with the state party and could challenge President Trump in 2020 or the strong Trump supporter likely 2018 senate candidate who relies on his own political committee?
**Donald Trump, Scott vs. the GOP establishment. Corcoran was vocal early on with his contempt for "repugnant" President-elect Trump, and Ingoglia certainly kept his distance from Trump, regularly refusing to discuss his party's nominee publicly. Trump himself was mistrustful of Ingoglia during Florida's March, 2016 primary.
"Word is-early voting in FL is very dishonest. Little Marco, his State Chairman, & their minions are working overtime-trying to rig the vote," Trump tweeted on March 12, with no evidence to back up up claim.
Since Trump's victory, Ingoglia and other party leaders have antagonized some grassroots Trump supporters who felt the state and national parties were taking too much credit.
"The sad irony is that while true loyalists and champions for the American people were busy winning the election for Donald Trump, the open-borders, Syrian refugee-loving, Common Core-supporting establishment foxes were maneuvering their way into the hen house," south Florida radio host John Cardillo wrote last month after National Committeewoman Sharon Day hailed the state and national parties' work to elect Trump.
Trump's Florida campaign chief, Susie Wiles, who is close to Gov. Scott, has endorsed Ingoglia, though she is also a Ballard Partners lobbyist, whose firm can't afford to antagonize the Florida House Speaker.
Karen Giorno led Trump's Florida campaign before Wiles and is solidly behind Ziegler. Even after Trump overwhelmingly won Florida's primary and was the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination, Giorno said, Ingoglia was unhelpful.
"Not only was he not fully on board, there was still a resistence," she said. "Blaise has never been an ally of Donald Trump or to the Trump campaign staff to to the Trump campaign volunteers."
Republican strategist Patrick Howley the other day published a column in the Daily Caller bashing Ingoglia as an anti-Trump Marco Rubio ally and Ziegler as a true, blue Make America Great Again Republican.
"Will the Trump movement be able to grow and consolidate its power in the wake of a historic victory? Or will the feisty Deplorables end up getting purged from the Republican Party of Florida photo scrapbook like we’re Kim Jong-Un’s disloyal uncle?"
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski promoted the article on Twitter
The state GOP's executive director fired off an email urging party leaders to pay no attention: "Almost all of this smear piece is inaccurate, and the falsehoods are too numerous to list."
All which brings is to Ingoglia's horrific shirt.
Now a group connected to several Breitbart alumns has released a video promoting Ziegler and featuring old footagle of Ingoglia from his old professional poker days ("The game is on, big stack!")
--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times