When I moved to Florida in 1987, Bill McCollum was the biggest Republican name in Central Florida. Bigger than Dan Webster. Bigger than Toni Jennings. Basically, bigger than any politician in the area. When I was in 8th grade, I remember him attending our school, Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Lake Mary. He asked the kids to ask him questions. I think he was shocked when I asked “why do you support someone that sold weapons to Iran?” I wasn’t your typical 8th grader. I was an avid Paul Simon supporter in 1988 and only one person in my class who knew who Simon was.
Fast forward 25 years. The man that drew the attention of hundreds and was known throughout the district is now more of a fading memory in the eyes of Central Florida. Many new residents haven’t even heard of him. Once he left Congress in 2001, he decided to become a statewide candidate. In that time, other prominent Republicans took his place as the dominant Republican in the region. Dan Webster, Joni Jennings, Glenda Hood, Andy Gardiner all moved McCollum into political obscurity among Central Florida voters.
Thus, this question must be asked…does Bill McCollum’s endorsement mean anything?
In the past, being a Congressman that controlled the Orlando area, McCollum’s endorsement meant something. But McCollum already started to lose credibility once he failed to keep the Orlando Naval Training Center in Orlando and then was one of the leaders in the Bill Clinton witch hunt.
After that, his eyes turned to the State of Florida. He was elected Attorney General in 2006, mostly because of the incompetent campaign of Democrat Skip Campbell. But when McCollum decided to go “big time”, his connection to Central Florida almost seemed to evaporate. When he decided to run for US Senate in 2004, McCollum was outperformed by Mel Martinez (from Orlando as well) in Orange and Seminole Counties, in some precincts by very wide margins. The McCollum magic was now gone.
In his bid for the Governor’s Mansion in 2010, McCollum lost to Rick Scott. And while he did carry Orange and Seminole Counties, he barely topped 50%. Losing to a political nobody, McCollum, a former Congressman and incumbent Attorney General, made him even less of a factor in Florida politics.
Therefore, does his endorsement of Connie Mack VI mean anything? If I were to show a photo of Bill McCollum to the average Orlando voter in 1984, they might know who he is. If I did it today, most people would probably assume that he does the 6 AM crop report with Orion Samuelson on WGN in Chicago (yes, Google it).
This also begs the question…are only the political lightweights going to endorse Mack? While the major players might support him as the nominee, will they stay quiet before then? The fact that Mack is going to have a “major announcement” today doesn’t say much when it is associate with the name Bill McCollum.
The old guard is out in the GOP, and the new guard is in. McCollum is the past. Unfortunately, Dan Webster is the present.