Paula Dockery on why her party can't get behind Jon Huntsman

Dockery is a die-hard Huntsman supporter, which is only a surprise if you don't follow her on Twitter. In fact, she had been in contact with the Huntsman campaign to travel to New Hampshire this past weekend to stump for her man in the days leading up to the Granite State's first-in-the nation primary, the primary on which Huntsman has bet his whole campaign (she ultimately opted to stay in Florida).

Dockery says the Republican Party, especially in Florida, is "schizophrenic" when it comes to the issue of science, citing the fact that Huntsman's unbridled support for the belief in human-caused global warming has made him an outcast in GOP ranks.

"It’s so amazing to me. We seem to be schizophrenic on the issue of science, because the same Republican party is talking about the need for STEM — Science, Technology , Engineering, Math (in higher education). We're going to put all of our eggs in the STEM basket, we need to turn all of our universities into STEM, but if somebody says ‘I believe in science,’ then all of a sudden, it's the kiss of death."

(The San Francisco Chronicle reports that at a town hall Friday in Concord, New Hampshire, one voter thanked Huntsman for being the only GOP candidate "who actually believes in science," prompting the former governor to quip, ""That's a revolutionary concept, isn't it?").

Dockery also acknowledges what every political observer noted when Huntsman began making noises early in 2011 that he would leave his job as Ambassador to China — that the very idea that he had worked for Barack Obama would be problematic for a lot of Republicans. It has been all of that.

"This is what makes me sad about my party right now — the hatred for Barack Obama," Dockery laments. "It's driving everything we do." She bemoans the fact that "unless you hate Barack Obama, and preach that every day, then you're not a 'real Republican,' and the fact that [Huntsman] said yes to serving the United States of America under Obama makes him a traitor. Yet think of all of our servicemen. Are they traitors? They're under the Commander in Chief."

Dockery believes that the 2012 legislative session won't be nearly as controversial as last year's donnybrook, a view that other lawmakers (but not all) have shared with CL in recent days. In any event, she admits that, along with passing a balanced budget and making sure redistricting stays on schedule, she may be playing more defense than pushing any major pieces of legislation over the next two months in Tallahassee.

  • Paula Dockery

Polk County Republican state Senator Paula Dockery is about to begin her 16th and last session in the Florida Legislature. Term limits prevent her from running again in 2012, which many political observers believe will be a loss not only for her constituents, but for the state as well.

In recent years a coterie of Tampa Bay area moderates in the legislature's upper body — Dockery, Pasco County's Mike Fasano and Clearwater's Jack Latvala — have become the last vestiges of the more moderate, adult-like part of Tallahassee government.

That style is going out of style, and Dockery has been at odds with many in the Republican Party of Florida for years now. Her disgust at some of the scandals that rocked the party in 2009 led her to briefly challenge the then establishment candidate for governor, Bill McCollum. That was before Rick Scott and his $73 million ended not only her dreams to run the state, but McCollum's (and Alex Sink's) as well.

Her feelings of being deserted by the party to which she has always belonged have only been exacerbated this presidential campaign season as her candidate of choice, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, has struggled mightily in public approval ratings since he entered the race last summer.

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