The Nelson Thing
by Derek Newton
In discussions with Democrats here and there, I've picked up what I can only describe as a festering discontent with Senator Bill Nelson.
Some members of our Party tell me that Nelson has become a Republican. He doesn't vote the "right way" on certain issues. Their logic seems to be, and some have even said, that Democrats should teach him a lesson and not support him in 2006.
And I have to say I don't get this.
No, more than that, this has to be among the dumbest things I've ever heard.
Make no mistake; Bill Nelson is no poster child for liberal causes. If I were in the Senate I am sure I would have cast a few votes differently than our senior Senator.
But any elected legislator will tell you there's only one vote that really counts - the vote for who will lead the Chamber. Nelson voted for Tom Daschle and Harry Reid to lead the U.S. Senate.
Without a Democrat in that seat, that leadership vote will be cast for Bill Frist. Or worse.
On that score it seems to me that those Democrats who are inclined to withhold support for Nelson would rather see Majority Leader Santorum than Majority Leader Obama.
Even more importantly, unless I missed an election, Nelson is our only statewide elected Democrat. Not to rip off Looney Toons but he's all there is folks. And if he stumbles at the ballot box next fall Florida will officially become no different than Texas - a large state without a Democrat anywhere in sight.
But there are good Democrats running in 2006 you say.
Yes, there are. But most of the time it takes at least one statewide loss before you win in Florida and, as of today, we have exactly zero candidates for 2006 who have been on a statewide General Election ballot.
Let me put it another way. What do you think the odds are of say Jim Davis beating say Charlie Crist on the same ballot where Bill Nelson is losing?
Start at zero and count backwards.
Really our best and perhaps only shot of winning a statewide seat is with a very strong Nelson showing. With Nelson winning with 55% of the vote it begins to be conceivable that a Democratic Attorney General candidate, for example, could squeeze out a 52-48 win.
To me, punishing Nelson seems, as they say in Dixie County, "bassackwards." We need Bill Nelson a hell of a lot more than he needs us.
Recent polling in Jacksonville and outlying Tampa (both solid Republican areas) show Nelson coasting. It's possible that Nelson can win without help from "rank and file" Democrats by moving even father right. But I am nearly certain that our other candidates can't win without his help.
And here's a new idea. Maybe if the Democratic Party wakes up and rallies around Nelson he may win comfortably - with enough votes to actually steal a seat in Congress or pick-off a few seats in the Florida House.
As an experienced operative friend of mine said a few weeks ago, "Nelson may be only 60% Democrat but that's 60% more than Mel Martinez." And in political math, Nelson is quite possibly 120% more Democratic than Katherine Harris.
Love him or hate him, Nelson is the top of our ticket and I don't see any Democrats lining up to challenge him. I only hear a few lost souls whispering about him.
It's well past time for that to stop.
The next election will be a war. And the first rule of combat is to know friend from foe.