Florida GOP readies plan to play big in congressional races

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The state GOP is launching the "Prevent Pelosi Project" this week, starting with a mailer signed by Curry which will go out to Florida Republicans warning that "half of the races [Pelosi] needs to win are here in my Sunshine State."

Former Mitt Romney bundler John Rood has signed on to the project as its fundraising chair, and plans to launch a nationwide fundraising effort for the campaign, Curry said, though he wouldn't indicate how much they hope to raise.

In choosing Pelosi as the party's focal point, Curry cited a recent Gallup survey that showed Pelosi is seen unfavorably by nearly half of Americans polled, while only 31 percent view her favorably.

That poll makes her the least-liked congressional leader tested, and the best-known, among Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Curry also indicated the party will create an independent expenditure arm to spend unlimited amounts of money on races in 2014.

"If we need to spend more money than what is allowed under law in direct communication with a candidate, we're also going to have an entity, through the Republican Party of Florida, that can spend money in those races, unlimited amounts of money," he said.

It would be barred by law from coordinating with the state party. However, federal law caps state party expenditures coordinated with a House nominee at $46,600 for 2013, while an independent expenditure arm could spend unlimited sums.

Curry expects the independent expenditure arm to be up and running within the next two weeks.

Curry will announce the state party's strategy at a meeting with members of the Florida delegation Wednesday night, part of a three-day swing through Washington during which he'll also meet individually with members of the state delegation, including Rep. Steve Southerland (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

Southerland is on national Democrats' list of potential pickups, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already landed its top recruit for the race in Gwen Graham, daughter of former Florida Sen. Bob Graham.

Curry said he plans to let Southerland know that "we are going to be relevant and be a part of his campaign.”

"It remains to be seen exactly what that will mean, because we have to strategically see when we know what's going on at the ground, once we raise the money, but it could be a combination of phones, mail, ads," he said.

He added that, if the campaign had money in hand right now, "we'd be diving in."

The Florida GOP will take an active role in all of the state's most contested races, Curry said, and will engage on both offense and defense. He noted Rep. Patrick Murphy's (D) seat as a potential pickup opportunity for Republicans, and one where the party could play.

Murphy defeated Tea Party darling Allen West (R) in a hard-fought race that drew millions in outside spending and became one of the most expensive House races in the nation.

Democrats heavily targeted five Florida Republicans in 2012, but came away victorious in only two of them, Murphy's and Rep. Joe Garcia's districts.

In addition to Southerland, they are also looking at Reps. Vern Buchanan (R) and Daniel Webster (R) as potential pickup opportunities, along with a handful of other possible targets.

A handful of Republicans are considering challenging Murphy, and while Curry said the Florida GOP will be involved in the race, he emphasized it will stay neutral during the primary, as is typical for state parties.

He also indicated the state party will take its cues from the National Republican Congressional Committee — and aim only to support candidates "if the numbers tell us we can win."

"We don't want to be inefficient, so whatever the NRCC does we want to compliment. They're obviously working and recruiting candidates for seats and to the extent that we can be helpful we will be as well," he said.

This story was updated at 4:34 p.m.