Don't sell Harris short in '06

Last week, GOP Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida kicked off her campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. While this should be a much-ballyhooed quest in Republican circles, too few GOP insiders seem to be excited by Harris’s launch. This is a mistake.

Last week, GOP Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida kicked off her campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. While this should be a much-ballyhooed quest in Republican circles, too few GOP insiders seem to be excited by Harris’s launch. This is a mistake.

Katherine Harris is going to win this election for reasons that I’ll outline in this column. But before making the case that needs to be made, let me make a few disclosures. Yes, I did poll for Harris’s successful bids for secretary of state and Congress. But since 2003, I have not served Harris, providing me an opportunity for an objective view of her candidacy.

Harris’s advantages start with her celebrity status, coupled with the low expectations that surround her bid. Let’s face it: Voters today are more interested in celebrities than in politicians. More Americans read People than Time. More people follow “American Idol” than C-SPAN’s “Road to the White House.”

Celebrity commands attention. When Katherine Harris comes to town, people will want to get in on the action. And because of the nature of criticism that the media have aimed at Harris, people will expect her to disappoint.

But when voters see Katherine as she really is — a smart, vivacious and engaging woman — they will be shocked. Pleasantly shocked. There is no way that Katherine Harris won’t exceed expectations, and that’s a major plus.

Expectations are a competitive advantage too. Bill Nelson will always underperform his r