"I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!" - Alice
Republican insiders woke up Wednesday morning looking at a November election that is nothing like they had planned.
They cheerfully drove Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party because he would not doing their bidding. They were certain that Crist would rapidly become irrelevant and their hand-picked candidate for U.S. Senate - Marco Rubio - would quickly shove him aside.
Crist, by now, was supposed to be broke and broken. Instead he is the leading candidate in a three-way race that now includes Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.
They also made sure that Attorney General Bill McCollum would have a clear field in his quest to win the GOP nomination for governor. They pushed aside Agricuture Commission Charlie Bronson and when state Sen. Paula Dockery dared to launch a campaign they made sure she would be unable to raise money from the insiders.
It was going pretty good for the insiders until Rick Scott came along with millions of his own dough and little interest in playing the insider game. First they ignored him but when Scott stunned them by quickly becoming the frontrunner they rallied for McCollum.
They poured millions into McCollum's campaign and party leaders - including former Gov. Jeb Bush - made it clear that Scott was not welcome.
Scott apparently noticed. During his victory speech in Fort Lauderdale he said: "In Tallahassee tonight dealmakers are crying in their cocktails."
How bad is it? Here's a tidbit from an excellent story by John Kennedy for The News Service of Florida:
Robert Coker, longtime lobbyist for U.S. Sugar, whose $197 million land sale to the South Florida Water Management District, has been condemned by Scott, said he needed a couple days to let the primary night results sink in.
U.S. Sugar, a heavy contributor to McCollum and the Florida Republican Party, is likely to remain an eager political donor to the GOP nominee, but Coker conceded, “Rick Scott doesn’t look like he needs any money. I think everybody is taking a deep breath this morning.”
Today, Florida GOP chairman John Thrasher is going to meet with Scott. It should be an interesting meeting because Scott proved he doesn't need the Republican Party.
And if Scott becomes governor with no alligiance to the party or the insiders - what will happen in Tallahassee?
As Alice might say, it gets "curiouser and curiouser."