The GOP race in Florida’s 4th Congressional District right now is John Rutherford’s to lose.
The former Jacksonville sheriff has high name ID and endorsements throughout Duval County and beyond.
He has a great team working for him.
And, despite his penchant for voicing support at his own fundraising events for embattled State Attorney Angela Corey — a longtime political ally who is opposed in her re-election bid by many of his supporters, such as Peter Rummell — he has the clearest path to earned media, and every other meaningful metric.
The big story in Florida’s political scene right now boils down to four words: What will Marco do?
Will Rubio jump back into the Senate race to reclaim his seat?
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a very early Rutherford supporter, has been urging Rubio to do so, via interviews with FloridaPolitics.com and other outlets.
Curry likes and trusts Rubio, on a personal and a policy level.
If Rubio does jump into the Senate race, we can reasonably infer a lot of Republicans will jump out.
Rep. David Jolly and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera have already indicated they would step aside.
Here’s a third possibility: Rep. Ron DeSantis.
The Ponte Vedra congressman currently is at the northern edge of Congressional District 6.
But the new maps take him out of CD 6. And into CD 4.
DeSantis is a smart politician, with smart advisors who know two months would not be enough time to compete statewide with Rubio.
They have ideological, demographic, and other meaningful types of overlap.
And, it would be hard to make the case to replace Rubio, who has meaningful experience and credibility nationally, even with a good congressman.
It would be less hard to make the case to run for an open House seat in the Jacksonville Republican district.
DeSantis would instantly be in the frontrunner conversation: as of his Q1 fundraising report, he has $3.2 million of hard money.
How much soft money does he have? Unknown. But it’s easy to imagine the Club For Growth spending what is needed to help out.
DeSantis has the House experience. He has an increasing national profile. He has a telegenic wife who has been a fixture on Jacksonville TV screens for a decade. He can talk national security, and finds a way to craft the message to everyone from the gilded rooms of Capitol Hill to the hicks in the sticks.
Nothing is for certain, while we wait for Marco Rubio to announce his next move.
But if you’re Ron DeSantis, waiting your turn to run statewide, why not try to re-up in the House, taking advantage of a big media market in Jacksonville, a national profile, and credibility with Republicans?
There is an irony in this speculation.
Before the re-mapping, with DeSantis in the Senate race, Rutherford was looking at CD 6.
The question was one of logistics: would he have to move to do it?
The names were linked last year. And now, if dominoes fall a certain way, they would be linked again, in a clash of two high-profile Republicans — both unimpeachably conservative, yet presenting meaningful contrasts in age, demographic, and life experience.
DeSantis would provide a significant and electable alternative to the so-called “coronation” of Rutherford some in the Duval GOP grouse about.
If it’s Rutherford against DeSantis, this CD 4 primary battle becomes a race of national interest.