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Carlos Curbelo Tries to Claim the Center-Right

March 12, 2015 - 7:00pm

Carlos Curbelo tried to claim the center-right this week between other Republicans and the Democrats on foreign policy.

Curbelo appeared on Univision this week and criticized the 47 Republican senators, who included Marco Rubio, for sending a letter to the Iranian government. That doesnt mean Curbelo is a dove, since he opposes the Obama administrations negotiations with Iran and vocally backed Benjamin Netanyahus speech to Congress.

Theres a bit of a risk for Curbelo here. Some of his chief supporters have been hawking Republicans like Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But the Republican senators have received a lot of criticism on the issue and Curbelo might be able to score a few points on the matter, especially in his South Florida swing district.

Curbelo can expect to be a target in 2016. The DCCC is already gunning for Curbelo since his South Florida swing district is a far different place in presidential elections than off-year contests. Democrat Joe Garcia came to Congress here in 2012 on Barack Obamas coattails. Garcia was also helped by the never-ending parade of scandals attached to Republican David Rivera.

But Garcia proved incapable of staying in power. He blundered badly on the public stage, constantly shooting himself in the foot and getting mired in scandals of his own, though by no means as much as Rivera did. Curbelo beat Garcia 52 percent to 48 percent in a good year for Republicans in Florida and around the nation. That small margin of victory has given Democrats hope they can beat him next time out, especially given how that party does better in Florida during presidential elections.

Garcia had been rumored as being interested in a rematch but he pulled the plug on that option in recent days. Even with Garcia out, there are plenty of Democrats lining up here

Fresh from her lieutenant governor bid, Annette Taddeo has been throwing her name into the mix. But she has never had much luck when it comes to running for office, losing a congressional bid to Ros-Lehtinen and coming in third in a County Commission seat primary. Adding her to the Democratic ticket in 2014 was supposed to boost Charlie Crist in South Florida. That simply did not happen as Democratic turnout sputtered in Miami and Broward County. Despite having been the boss of Miami-Dade Democrats, Taddeo failed in her own backyard. Crist made a miscalculation in adding her to the ticket. While nobody votes for whoever the lieutenant governor candidate is, running mates are supposed to at least deliver their home turf. Taddeo did not accomplish that while other Democrats could have done better as Crists running mate.

Dwight Bullard is getting some buzz as a possible candidate here. Bullard could do well in a divided primary, especially if he is the only non-Hispanic in the race. Hes also a good campaigner as Ron Saunders learned in the state Senate primary back in 2012. But Bullard seems to have found a groove in Tallahassee as one of the leading liberal voices on education.

Gloria Romero Roses could also resurface. She ran for Congress back in 2012 but simply underwhelmed, taking only 30 percent while Garcia won the primary with 52 percent. Despite her work with Emilys List and some support from the DCCC, Roses didnt live up to expectations.

There are other possibilities for Democrats as well, including Daniella Levine Cava who is well-known from her time on the Miami-Dade County Commission. At the very least, Taddeo wont have a cakewalk to the nomination.

Curbelo probably wont tack all the way to the middle but he will try to claim the center-right in the coming months. His position on Iran is one such example. So is his stance on immigration reform where he has thrown barbs both at Obama and fellow Republicans. Itll be interesting to see if this pays off for Curbelo in 2016 when he can expect a real fight on his hands to keep the seat.

Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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