Jeff Miller could be taking an unlikely turn as the lead actor on Florida’s political stage this week.
After last week’s Supreme Court decisions and this month’s special session, Floridians can be excused for wanting a slow in-between week as they ready for the Independence Day weekend. As June draws to a close, the presidential election continues to eclipse the rest of the 2016 campaign cycle, but interest is rising in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate.
Enter Miller. Roll Call reported Miller would announce a Senate bid this week. But, later in the week when he spoke to the media, Miller insisted no timetable had been set, he simply left the door open to getting in the race.
There’s certainly plenty of reason for Miller to get into the race. He will be term-limited out of his post as chairman of the House VA Committee after the 2016 elections and, having broken away on some key votes, Miller is not exactly a favorite of the current House leadership, even though the Florida congressman voted to keep John Boehner as speaker.
It’s pretty telling that Miller went nowhere in his efforts to lead the Intelligence Committee. While he has enough seniority to resurface down the road, Miller looks likely to remain in place, at least in the short term, on the congressional leadership ladder. Now in his mid-50s, Miller might not have the patience for that, even if he could keep his current seat as long as he wants it.
Miller is a proven winner in his Panhandle district, but he’s largely unknown across most of the state. Of course the same can be said of Ron DeSantis and some of the other possible Republican Senate candidates: Carlos Lopez-Cantera, David Jolly, Randy Fine and Todd Wilcox.
There are some major downsides for Miller. No longer running in just the Panhandle, one of the less expensive media markets in the state, Miller will have to take his fundraising to a whole other level. His potential rivals are already out raising cash. DeSantis is already getting the support of national conservative groups while Lopez-Cantera will look to South Florida for support. Miller will also have to make the case that he can win the general election, something he never had to worry about in one of the safest Republican seats in the nation.
But, despite it all, Miller could well be a contender. The Republican primary is wide open and Miller is well-positioned to nail down the Panhandle and parts of North Florida. But he's going to find a bid for statewide office is in a completely different league than winning races on the Panhandle. It’ll be interesting to see how Miller responds to the various challenges if he enters the race.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.