Florida is always seen as something of a model for the nation’s future politics as America grows older and more Hispanic. In recent years, Republicans from the Sunshine State tapped into a trend which is now taking over the GOP across the nation: disgust with career politicians.
Quinnipiac University released a poll on Monday which showed voters across the nation in general, and Republicans in particular, are upset with the way the federal government operates. An overwhelming majority of Republicans -- 90 percent -- are not satisfied with where the nation is headed while 86 percent are angry or dissatisfied with the course of the federal government.
Republican voters are increasingly taking some of their frustrations out on the GOP-controlled Congress. Only 23 percent of Republicans approve of their party in Congress while 69 percent disapprove. Not exactly a ringing vote of confidence in Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
All that being the case, most Republicans -- 73 percent -- say they don’t want their candidate in 2016‘s presidential race to have Beltway experience. That’s not music to the ears of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who are calling for changing Washington even as they serve in the Senate, and helps explain the rise of Donald Trump and, increasingly, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
Florida Republicans have been ahead of this trend. Tapping into the tea party movement in 2010, Rick Scott stressed his lack of elective experience as he beat two well-known officeholders in Bill McCollum in the primary and Alex Sink in the general election. Pam Bondi did much the same thing in the attorney general’s race.
Since then, several Republicans in the Sunshine State followed that game plan to a tee. Herman Cain upset Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in RPOF’s Presidency 5 straw poll in 2011. Trey Radel and Ron DeSantis blew out crowds of officeholders to win open congressional seats a year later. Stressing he wasn’t a career politician, Ted Yoho beat Cliff Stearns in one of the biggest upsets in Florida political history. The trend continued last year as Curt Clawson relied on his business experience to win a special election for Radel’s open seat.
Republicans from Florida also are clearly not sold on McConnell, Boehner and the GOP leadership. At the start of the year, Yoho and Dan Webster both challenged Boehner in the House speakership election. Bill Posey and Rich Nugent threw their support behind Webster, while Clawson voted for Rand Paul. Republican congressional challengers across the state, such as Mary Thomas who is running against Gwen Graham, have already made it clear, if elected, they won’t vote for Boehner to lead the House.
Of course, there are some downsides. The dysfunction in Tallahassee as the two chambers of the Florida Legislature stood at loggerheads on the budget, Medicaid expansion and congressional redistricting doesn’t bode well for the GOP Congress, even as buzz grows that Boehner will need Democratic votes in September to avoid a government shutdown as tea party and conservative discontent grows.
In the presidential contest, the rising disgust with Washington and insider politicians bodes poorly for Jeb Bush, the man who did the most to grow the Florida GOP over the last two decades. Of course, the former Florida governor never served in Washington himself but his father and his brother did and the Bush dynasty could end up as one of the chief victims of this growing trend within the Republican ranks. At least Bush has a chance for the nomination. The same can’t be said of plenty of familiar political faces gunning for the Republican nod.
Since it emerged in 2009, there’s been plenty of speculation about what the tea party stands for and how it will shape the GOP on taxes, spending, immigration, education and social issues. But one thing is pretty clear. The tea party isn’t just opposed to politics as usual; it’s opposed to politicians as usual. That’s been clear in Florida in recent elections and, increasingly, it’s evident in the GOP across the nation.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN