Ahead in polls, Jeff Greene hires John Kerry’s former advisers

Holly Bailey
August 2, 2010

Billionaire Jeff Greene once looked like a long shot in his bid to win Florida's Democratic Senate nomination, but after spending millions of dollars from his own fortune on the race, he has a 10-point lead over Kendrick Meek ahead of the Aug. 24 primary. That lead — plus his willingness to continue spending gobs of his own money — has some establishment Democrats starting to take him more seriously.

Over the weekend, Greene replaced his chief political adviser, Joe Trippi, best known for working with Howard Dean and John Edwards, with two former consultants to John Kerry's '04 presidential campaign: Tad Devine and Julian Mulvey. Greene also tried to hire Bob Shrum, Kerry's chief political adviser and a former aide to Ted Kennedy, but Shrum tells The Upshot he turned Greene down. "He asked me, and I'm retired, and I said no," Shrum says.

The St. Petersburg Times' Adam Smith reports that Greene has been telling people that Shrum is advising him, and Greene told Smith that he talks to Shrum "often and he's giving me good advice." A spokesman for Greene tells The Upshot the candidate "misspoke" and did not mean to imply that Shrum is advising the campaign.

Shrum played down his relationship with Greene, telling The Upshot the two had lunch recently when they both happened to be in Cape Cod on vacation. He said he's not providing advice to Greene, either formally or informally. "He told me more about the race than I told him," Shrum says.

The longtime Democratic consultant says Greene strikes him as a "smart, impressive guy." I'm not going to pile on like everybody else. I have absolutely nothing critical to say about him," Shrum said. In fact, his only criticism was for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the party's campaign arm, which is backing Meek in the race.

"The whole notion out of Washington, which is relatively recent, is that the DSCC decides who the candidate is going to be," Shrum said. "It doesn't work. We saw it in Pennsylvania, and it looks like we're seeing it [in Florida]. Voters want to choose ... the party should stay out of it."