Will Jolly bail on his Rubio Senate seat to run for his own seat? Maybe, say top Tampa Bay politibros

The Pinellas Congressman and current Republican Senate candidate may do a bit of a pivot.

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Insert analogy comparing the ever-shifting sands on Pinellas County beaches to the seemingly constant flux within the county's political races here.

That's because it seems like, once again, we are on the verge, potentially, of another event that seems to fit right in there with all the other bizarre and unexpected stuff that's come to define Election Year 2016.

While nothing's remotely official, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores may drop his U.S. Senate bid to instead fight against former Governor Charlie Crist to keep his own seat.

After all, the incumbent Senator, Marco Rubio, is being strongly encouraged to run to keep his seat after Donald Trump torpedoed his presidential aspirations.

The GOP primary is already crowded for that Senate seat, and if Rubio jumps into the pool, there probably wouldn't be room for anyone else, let alone a Congressman who seems averse to pandering to the far-right on things like climate change and endorsing Donald Trump out-and-out (Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith outlines a few more factors that suggest this may happen here). Jolly has already said he would step down if Rubio does try to win his seat back.

But even as political heavyweights like State Senator Jack Latvala encourage him to run, it's unclear at this point whether he will.

It's possible that, despite a gap in statewide name recognition, Jolly could have some advantages over Rubio.

One, unlike Rubio, he not only shows up for work, but encourages his colleagues to do so. That may appeal to voters statewide, many of whom have or have had jobs to which they are required to consistently carry out various tasks in order to receive pay, and would likely enjoy it if the U.S. Senator they elect (and pay) does the same.

Two, consider his initial run for office to replace his former boss, the late 40-something-year incumbent, C.W. Bill Young: he had just a few months to make his case not once, but twice, against monied opponents with exponentially more name recognition. And he pulled it off. Granted, the primary fight against Rubio would take place on a much steeper hill, but anything's possible.

The math in District 13 may also be a concern. He dropped his bid for reelection in the 13th after court-ordered redistricting to correct illegal gerrymandering turned the 13th much more Democratic. But polling may suggest voter fatigue for his prospective Democratic opponent, Latvala told the Times, and Jolly may have a better shot against Crist than conventional wisdom suggests — especially in such a bizarre year as this.

Possible competition is most probably a downer for Crist, who is unopposed at the moment.

Ever since former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker (mayoral bid in 3...2...1...) said he wouldn't run for the seat, the Republican-turned-NPA-turned Democrat running for the seat was sitting pretty (especially after lesser-known Dem primary challenger Eric Lynn dropped his underdog bid for the seat to instead run for State House). 

It should be noted, prolly, that Jolly hates, hates, hates Crist—enough to drive 45 minutes from Seminole or wherever to south St. Pete to talk Trash about Crist after the latter announced his run last October, calling him a "huckster" and a "fraud." Not that we'd ever run for office, but we imagine it would be much easier to run against someone we genuinely didn't like than someone we did.

If Jolly runs for reelection armed with powerful local GOP fundraising mechanisms at hand and what seems like a knack for defeating better-known opponents and, now, a record of service, Crist may have to spend the next few months doing, like, actual work.

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