U.S. Sen. Bob Graham postponed his retirement party even as he pulled out of the presidential race Monday night.
The former two-term Florida governor may be called one of the Sunshine State’s “50 Greatest Floridians in History,” but he had little chance this late in life of changing his address to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
From the beginning of Graham’s announcement that he would campaign for the Democratic nomination to lose to Dubya during the 2004 election, I wondered where he thought he’d get his momentum. Maybe Mr. Senator thought since Florida’s butterfly ballot stood between the 2000 candidates and the Oval Office, having someone with ties as deep-rooted as his would make him a powerful force. Or at least one with a back pocket full of Electoral votes from one of the largest states in the Union.
As a young voter, I recognize the massive impact Sen. Graham has had on Florida and on the nation. His Web site, www.grahamforpresident.com, lists many reasons the senator’s name is synonymous with progress in Florida. Graham led the way for firm stances on protecting the Everglades. While governor of Florida, the number of black-owned businesses doubled. He helped maintain a state unemployment rate that remained below the national average.
If election laws had allowed and the senator decided to return to Florida’s Capitol Hill, I’m sure he would have given Jeb Bush a run for his money in the 2002 gubernatorial election. But on a national level, how well known is Daniel Robert Graham? Most Floridians probably didn’t realize that is his full name.
For weeks, reports have been issued saying that Graham was consistently missing his campaign fundraising goals. He’s kept Floridians and the rest of the country wondering about his progress — or lack thereof — since declaring for the Democratic nomination more than five months ago. The health of Graham, who turns 67 next month, makes me wonder whether we’d end up with another Dick Cheney on our hands, or in our hospitals, if he became president. Graham had to wait to recover from heart surgery in February before even filing paperwork to join the race for president.
The Baby Boomer generation who gave Graham his political power in Florida knows first-hand how passionate the senator is and the weight his name carries. To the emerging leaders from Generation Y (children of the Baby Boomers, born between 1978 and 1984), like myself, who were mere babies when Graham was at the height of his political profession, he often appears to be no more than a modern-day filibuster. A living legend.
On Tuesday, Graham said he’d soon make a decision on running for re-election for his U.S. Senate seat. Looking to replace him is a long list of Republican and Democratic candidates. All of the Democrats who have entered the race so far, including former USF President Betty Castor, have said they’d step aside if Graham wants to remain in the Senate. Republicans, on the other hand, have made no such promises. Most are gearing up for a war with the veteran senator who some are calling weak, because of his attacks on President Bush.
In Graham’s statement announcing his withdrawal from the race, he said, “I am an optimist — a better America is just over the horizon. But we will not achieve that better America under President Bush.”
Noble words from a noble man. Unfortunately, Mr. Senator, I don’t think citizens would have rallied to reach that better America under President Graham, either.
Kevin Graham is a former Oracle editor in Chief. firstname.lastname@example.org