Posted on | October 13, 2011 | 127 Comments
* * * UPDATE OCT. 14 * * *
PREVIOUSLY (OCT. 13)
* * * EXCLUSIVE * * *
When Florida defied Republican National Committee rules to move the state’s 2012 presidential primary from an RNC-approved March date to Jan. 31, conservatives immediately suspected that state party insiders had orchestrated the move to help former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney thwart the momentum of Tea Party-backed candidate Herman Cain. Some Florida activists focused their suspicion on moderates in state party leadership – allies of Senate candidate George LeMieux and of former Gov. Charlie Crist — as orchestrating the change in the primary date. The move was seen as helping the centrist Romney, whose superior fund-raising resources would enable him to score an early knockout in the Sunshine State before Cain could fully leverage the boost he got from an upset victory in a Sept. 24 Florida GOP straw poll.
Yet while the moderate Republican faction in Tallahassee was immediately blamed for the primary date-switch, only insiders knew that a key factor was a push from inside the staff of the Tea Party’s own 2010 hero, Sen. Marco Rubio. GOP sources in Washington and Florida say that Rubio’s senatorial chief of staff, Cesar Conda, has been a major force in persuading Florida Republicans to move their primary to January.
“Cesar used to be with Romney’s campaign,” one informed source explained to me in an interview today, adding: “Conda used his contacts to push the primary to the 31st because they want Romney in.”
Conda’s loyalty to Romney was highlighted in a Politico story by Scott Wong last week: “At least six past and current Rubio Senate aides, including chief of staff Cesar Conda and his deputy, Terry Sullivan, worked for Romney’s 2008 presidential bid, establishing a direct link and a line of communication between the front-runner for the 2012 GOP nomination and the front-runner in the Republican veepstakes. There’s also a trail of fundraisers, donors and consultants who have overlapping relationships with Rubio and Romney.”
In a March 2010 column for National Review, Conda defended the so-called “RomneyCare” Massachusetts health insurance program. A former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, Conda was originally an ally of Crist, as the St. Petersburg Times noted when Conda was picked as Rubio’s chief of chief in January 2011:
Like many Republicans, Conda once thought Charlie Crist would be the next senator but later distanced himself from the former Florida governor, saying he lacked conservative credentials.
Conda has worked as a lobbyist and analyst for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and founded the Washington office of Navigators, a lobbying/consulting firm where another top Rubio adviser, Todd Harris, also worked.
The firm’s clients included GlaxoSmithKline, At&T, Visa and Citigroup, which got $45 billion under the bank bailout.
Some have speculated that, by delivering Florida for Romney, Conda would not only help Romney lock up the 2012 presidential nomination, but also secure the 2012 vice-presidential pick for Rubio.
It was Rubio’s underdog campaign that helped spark Tea Party activism in Florida and across the nation. Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer and National Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) conspired to “fix” the 2010 Senate primary in Florida with a May 2009 endorsement of the moderate Crist. At that point leading Rubio by more than 30 points in polls, Crist was seen as the safe bet in Florida’s Senate race. But the Greer/Cornyn endorsement backfired, as conservatives pointed out Crist’s embrace of President Obama’s deficit-spending “stimulus” agenda and denounced the effort by party insiders to determine the Republican candidate 15 months ahead of the August 2010 primary. The newly aroused Tea Party movement made Rubio their hero. Crist, overwhelmed by the conservative rally for Rubio, quit the GOP to launch a doomed third-party Senate race. Crist’s ally Greer resigned in disgrace and is now under criminal indictment for corruption charges.
Reports that Rubio — or at least Rubio’s top aides – are working behind the scenes for Romney, who is seen as representing the RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) moderate wing of the party, will be a bitter disappointment for conservatives who supported Rubio’s insurgent campaign last year. Many Tea Party activists who backed Rubio against Crist in the 2010 primary are now supporting Cain, the conservative Atlanta businessman who has surged to the front of the the Republican presidential pack in the past three weeks.
Cain’s candidacy got a boost not only from his Sept. 24 straw-poll win, but also from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s announcement last week that she would not seek the White House in 2012. In an appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News Channel program to discuss her decision, Palin singled out Cain for praise, saying she was “intrigued” and “impressed” with Cain’s “business acumen” and “up by the bootstraps” success.
The latest Rasmussen poll shows Cain tied with Romney nationally. Recent polls by Public Policy Polling and NBC/Wall Street Journal show Cain now leading Romney, and within 3 points of the longtime GOP frontrunner in the influential Real Clear Politics poll average. Meanwhile, a new poll of likely Florida Republican primary voters shows Cain now at 34% to Romney’s 28%, with former frontrunner Texas Gov. Rick Perry falling to a distant fourth at 5%, behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was third with 11%.
UPDATE: Linked at Fire Andrea Mitchell — thanks!
UPDATE II: Michelle Malkin on Twitter:
UPDATE III: Headline from The Washington Post:
Hmmm. Kinda like how the Establishment lined up behind Dede Scozzafava, isn’t it? And Herman Cain is Doug Hoffman in that analogy.
UPDATE IV: “Say it ain’t so, Marco.”
UPDATE VII: Linked by Maggie’s Notebook — thanks! — and Da Tech Guy sees Team Romney replicating the errors of Team Coakley. Meanwhile, getting linked by Allahpundit at Hot Air inspired me to leave this comment:
If this, indeed, an effort to secure Rubio’s slot as running-mate for Romney, has anybody else noticed that (a) Herman Cain’s top campaign staffers are from Wisconsin and (b) Paul Ryan praised the 9-9-9 plan today?
- Oct. 13: Nate Silver Wonders: Will N.H. Primary Move to December Backfire for Romney?
- Oct. 12: REPUBLICAN ARMAGEDDON LOOMS: New Hampshire Threatens December Primary Unless Nevada Moves Caucus
- Oct. 8: BLAME FLORIDA!
- Oct. 5: RINO-Lanche: Three ‘Evil State’ Republicans Endorse Mitt Romney
- Oct. 1: What Florida Hath Wrought: Will Christmas Be in Iowa or New Hampshire?
- Sept. 30: Florida: The Evil State
- Sept. 29: At Least One Florida Republican Party Official Who Is Not Batsh*t Crazy
- Sept. 28: Insert Obscene Epithets Here