As a member of the minority party, I'm used to being lonely.
So I realize I may be alone in saying that I've never really been a Scott Maddox fan. His charisma is real but it never won me over. Maybe I knew too much about the back-room deals and rumors that surrounded him for years.
Having said that, my opinion of Maddox grew greatly yesterday as word of his departure from the Governor's race spread. Maddox, for the first time that I can remember, put winning ahead of ego.
I know doubters will say Maddox only dropped out when there was no way he could prosper on his own. Maybe. But let's not obscure his actions with assumptions about his motives. Maddox did the right thing.
There's little doubt that leaders and pundits alike will begin to mention Maddox as a candidate for Attorney General or Lt. Governor. But I think that's a mistake.
Scott has a vital role to play. As a young, energetic leader Scott can rally a crowd and motivate progressive voters like few others in our Party. He should embrace this role and bask in the credit he will earn for being a team player.
Not only that, by staying out of the race as a candidate, Maddox has chance to act selflessly - putting to rest perceptions that his actions as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party were just the opposite. Signing on with another candidate gives Maddox a chance to prove to cynical Democrats that he cares about a team victory more than a personal one.
And I know that opinion leaders in the Democratic Party are divided between Congressman Jim Davis and State Senator Rod Smith. The truth is that both have a great deal to offer our party and both deserve credit for having the courage it takes to run for Governor.
Davis is leaving well paying, highly prestigious elected office that he could hold forever. Smith, although he is term-limited in the Senate, could go home to Alachua and make millions as a private lawyer. Instead, both are committed to helping Florida and the Democratic Party make a comeback.
It's just one person's opinion, but I think Maddox's departure and endorsement of Davis makes the road to the nomination very hard for Rod Smith. If any of Maddox's strong support in South Florida (and with the Party's progressive leaders) transfers to Davis, Smith is in for a tough fight.
When Boca Raton Congressman Robert Wexler came to Davis's campaign with Maddox yesterday, the beginning of the next phase of the race started poorly for Smith.
Some people will say that Central Florida moderate and dark horse Bill McBride bested the establishment Janet Reno in 2002. But the biggest problem for Smith's chances is that, at least in the Primary, Jim Davis is the Central Florida moderate. Worst of all, Davis could become, with Maddox's help, the Central Florida moderate with South Florida backing.
In Democratic Primary politics, that's a perfect storm.
I'm not saying that Senator Smith should drop out. It's far too early for that. But I am sure someone in Smith's camp already sees that delivering Maddox's base to Davis, who is already leading, is a real problem.
Maybe the most interesting thing to watch over the next few weeks and months in this Primary battle is whether Smith can take a lesson from Maddox - not in getting out but in being a team player.
If Smith begins to see that he'll have to destroy Davis to be the nominee, his choices will be interesting. It's possible to run an aggressive, proud campaign without scorching the earth. Doing so would allow Smith to reap Maddox-esque admiration and respect.
And if fortunes turn in Smith's favor and Davis finds himself behind, he'll have to make a similar decision and have the same opportunity.
Maddox impressed me the other day. I really hope that either Smith or Davis are as impressive when it's their turn to make a difficult decision.
[Note: Cross Posted at "FLA Politics".]