INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Republican race for Florida governor in 2018 began, as successful courtships often do, through the stomach.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam served up a crowd-pleasing breakfast of chicken and waffles, cheesy grits and -- of course -- Florida orange juice -- for delegates at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday. The grub (and the drinks, mimosas and Bloody Marys) came with big-name GOP guests -- and the unwritten acknowledgment that Putnam intends to be on the next midterm-election ballot.
Not that he admitted to it.
"We're having a wonderful time as Commissioner of Agriculture and focused on one election at a time," he told reporters, using the royal "we" often employed by well-versed political candidates.
He didn't have to announce his plans, though. Everyone in the room at the Embassy Suites-Rockside in the Cleveland suburbs was in on them.
"It sort of laid the foundation of what his intentions are -- as if everyone in Florida didn't know," said state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez of Miami. "He definitely ventured from the confines of agriculture!"
The only time Putnam talked about agriculture was when he joked about the breakfast spread, several notches above the average hotel intercontinental buffet.
"I know that a number of you were partying like Republicans last night -- actually partying like Democrats," he told attendees. "Now you're paying for it. You can drink your vegetables here at the Bloody Mary bar. It may not be Florida-grown, but it's Florida-inspired."
Instead, Putnam portrayed Florida a state other people dream about living in -- which he attributed to years of Republican control in Tallahassee. Under prior Democratic rule, he contended, the state was "turning prisoners loose after serving 33 percent of their sentence."