Most state legislators eagerly bolted for home as the fifth week of the legislative session ended Friday, but not House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
He headed to Las Vegas for the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
It’s the latest red flag that Corcoran’s sights are on the Governor’s Mansion, not quietly taking the lonely Suncoast Parkway back to Pasco County.
The RJC is enough of a political force that the weekend event features U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Lindsey Graham, ex-White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and a slew of governors including Rick Scott, who has a speaking slot.
The coalition’s web site bills it as a weekend of “politics, policy and poker at the fabulous Venetian/Palazzo Resort and Hotel” on the Vegas strip.
The Venetian is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino operator, chairman of the RJC’s board of directors, deep-pocket GOP donor and supporter of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, whose twin cheering sections of Fox News and President Trump make him a suddenly formidable presence in statewide politics in Florida.
Free national news coverage is highly coveted in a political campaign, and DeSantis might be getting more air time than some of Fox News’ anchors. His personal Twitter account shows him doing TV “hits” on Feb. 2, 3, and 5.
The conventional wisdom is that DeSantis and Corcoran are competing in the same “lane” for the hearts and minds of pro-Trump Republican voters, and that DeSantis holds the Trump card -- Trump.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll had DeSantis at 23 percent and Corcoran at 7 percent, with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam holding onto a precarious lead of 27 percent. More worrisome for Corcoran, 70 percent of Republicans polled didn’t recognize his name.
Hanging out with Adelson in Vegas looks like Corcoran is brashly trampling on what should be DeSantis’ turf, with the speaker’s pal, Rick Scott, possibly helping with introductions. (DeSantis’ camp did not respond as to whether he’s going).
Corcoran’s Vegas trip will intensify criticism from Democrats that he’s using the 2018 session as a platform to advance his political agenda, with rank-and-file House members serving as extras in a long-form Corcoran campaign ad. (Some of the speaker’s toughest critics in the House are Jewish lawmakers from South Florida).
Two weeks ago, Corcoran held a press conference at the Capitol to publicize his support for two pro-Israel bills in the House. One bans companies contracting with Florida from supporting anti-Israel boycotts, and the other symbolically endorses Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and new home of the U.S. embassy.