Right now, Republicans are poised for victory. They have the momentum following their upset Senate win in Massachusetts. And pundits are predicting double-digit gains in Congress.
That's on the national level, anyway.
And we're not talking a minor slipping-off-the-tracks, tip-over-the-caboose kind of wreck. We're talking a head-on collision.
The party chair has been ousted, he and his deputy exposed for credit-card spending sprees so extravagant, they'd make the Real Housewives of New York City blush.
The previous House speaker is embroiled in scandal and facing charges.
And here in Central Florida, Republicans are in such disarray, they are going through congressional candidates like Kleenex, trying to find one they like.
I've seen parties at Chuck E. Cheese that looked more organized. And more inviting.
The Republicans look so out of sync, why, they almost look like … Democrats.
Yes, for years, the Democratic Party was its own worst enemy, often unloading its fiercest ammo into its own feet. Or in circular formation. (Remember the last presidential election — when the party hacks wanted to nullify the primary votes of every single Democrat in Florida?)
Maybe Florida Republicans were taking notes. Because the Sunshine State GOP is suddenly one of the nation's biggest jokes ... only it's the Dems who are laughing hardest.
The latest embarrassment is the big spending, secret salaries and credit-card bills racked up by top party officials.
In the past few days alone, the Sentinel revealed that the party paid its executive director more than $400,000 in a single year (thanks to a secret contract) and that he and outgoing party leader Jim Greer racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit-card bills on golf outings, chartered jets, even flowers for Greer's wife.
Meanwhile, the party's campaign coffers were running low — apparently even running a deficit for federal campaigns.
Now, one can argue that such spending — as gluttonous as it may have been for people who preach fiscal conservatism — is really between party officials and their donors.
But public officials used these cards as well. And that is the public's business — especially if any of the elected officials got perks that were subsidized by special interests that want legislative favors from them.
That appeared to be the case with former Speaker Ray Sansom.
But there are other former RPOF cardholders — including U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio — who have refused to disclose their bills. And until they do, stories like this simply raise more questions about what they are trying to hide.
But perhaps the best example of Republicans causing themselves problems can be found in the party's inability to consistently back their own candidates in either of its two most coveted congressional races — when they can find a candidate, anyway.
The GOP routinely calls freshman Democrat Alan Grayson one of the most vulnerable incumbents in America. But just about every time the GOP makes that claim, another potential Republican challenger is caught running away with his tail between his legs.
Last week's tail-tucker was 28-year-old Armando Gutierrez. A few months ago, Republicans described the Central Florida newcomer as the next big thing in local politics. He snagged endorsements from everyone from a former head of the state GOP to one of Jeb Bush's sons. Gutierrez was in it to win it … until something else flashy caught his eye. He dropped out last week, saying he was more interested in baseball.
And he's not alone. About a dozen Republicans — everyone from Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty to House Speaker Larry Cretul — have talked big about taking on Grayson, only to slink off into the shadows when asked to back up their talk with action.
And if Republicans can't find candidates to oppose Grayson, they can't seem to find candidates they like to take on another potentially vulnerable Democrat, Volusia County's Suzanne Kosmas.
At one point, Republicans were so desperate, they were trying to coax Lou Holtz out of ESPN's announcer booth and into the race. That failed.
Still, Republicans still managed to get two respected candidates in the race: state Rep. Sandy Adams and Winter Park Commissioner Karen Diebel. You might've thought the party finally had its act together … until party officials leaked word that they weren't happy with them either, calling their campaigns "disastrous" and yearning for yet another candidate to enter the race.
The whole thing reeks of amateur hour. Washington Republicans should butt out and let locals pick their own candidates.
If they want to argue that Democrats aren't fit to lead the country, Florida Republicans should prove they're competent to lead their own party.
Scott Maxwell can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6141.
Florida GOP soap opera is comedy of errors
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