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Exit Katharine Harris? | The Nation

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Exit Katharine Harris?

Republican insiders always knew it would be a major mistake to pin their hopes for unseating Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a supposedly vulnerable Democrat, on one of the most bizarre players in American politics.

Now, they're being reminded that they should have trusted their instincts.

U.S. Representative Katharine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State who used her position to undermine the 2000 recount process and prepare the way for the Supreme Court to hand the state's electoral votes and the presidency to George Bush, elbowed her way into the Senate contest last year. Harris was never the party's first choice but, over time, as other serious contenders dropped back, she emerged as the likely GOP nominee. By January, Presidential Brother-in-Chief Jeb Bush was proclaiming his "strong support" for Harris.

But Harris remained as strange as ever, aggressively flirting with Sean Hannity in appearances on the Fox News personality's television program, referring to her campaign as a "grassfire" and promising to work as a senator to make sure federal judges don't "make laws" from the bench -- apparently forgetting the Supreme Court's unprecedented intervention in the case of Bush v. Gore.

Now, it looks as if Harris may be preparing to exit the race she worked so hard to make her own.

After it was revealed last week that Harris had accepted more than $50,000 in illegal campaign contributions from the defense contractor who bribed former U.S. Representative Duke Cunningham, R-California, Harris quickly announced that: "We've had some negative hits but we've had an overwhelming response from grassroots and leadership around the state that are saying 'Go for it' and that's what we're doing."

Then, on Saturday, the Harris campaign released a subdued statement from the candidate that said she would "prayerfully prepare with my family, friends and advisors to finalize the strategy for a major announcement next week concerning my candidacy for the US Senate."

The betting is that Harris will withdraw -- with Republicans hoping against hope that she can still be replaced by a big-name candidate such as Governor Bush or Representative Mark Foley. But with Katharine Harris the watchword is always "weird" so no one is sure what she will do until the deed is done. And everyone is sure that the time and money Republicans wasted on her candidacy has strengthened Nelson's position -- no matter who his challenger turns out to be in November.

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