Being a trafficker in rank speculation and flimsy rumors, I can't help but admire the science-based speculation and rumor creation available on FiveThirtyEight.com, which I checked approximately 642 times daily in October. The captain of this vessel is Nate Silver, who crunches poll numbers in a way that unlocks the Mysteries of the Universe. Any minute now he will tell us the winner of the 2016 Presidential Election. (So you know, Obama won reelection in 2012.)
With his usual gusto, Silver tackled the national electoral ramifications in Republican Sen. Mel Martinez's decision to not seek reelection in Florida in 2010. It's his conclusion that Martinez just did the GOP a favor. If you're not a compulsive reader of his site, that post can be dauntingly dense. The upshot: Martinez had low approval ratings that made him vulnerable to defeat by a Democrat challenger in 2010. On the other hand, Silver factored in the advantages that are always enjoyed by an incumbent, not just name recognition but in fund-raising. And though we still don't know who Martinez's Democrat opponent will be in 2010, Silver pronounces the Republican senator an "even money" bet to retain his senate seat, had he sought it.
A replacement candidate like Jeb Bush, however, enjoyed high approval rankings as Florida governor. Plus that status confers name recognition and fund-raising advantages usually associated with an incumbent. Bush, says Silver, would make a more electable U.S. Senate candidate in Florida than Martinez would have. For the same reasons, Gov. Charlie Crist is a superior option for Republicans. So assuming that Bush makes a run at it, or that Crist lowers his gaze from the Oval Office to the U.S. Senate, Silver concludes that Martinez's lame duck status actually helps his party.
I wonder whether the Republican National Committee already crunched these same numbers. If so, maybe they identified Martinez as a weak link in 2010, then exerted pressure on him to not run in 2010 and to announce that intention early enough that his replacement Republican could have a head start in one of the nation's most high-profile mid-term contests.
-- Thomas Francis