Gov. Bush says Katherine Harris can't beat Sen. Nelson,0,828248.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines
Associated Press
Posted May 8 2006, 1:59 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday that U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris has dropped so low in public opinion polls she cannot beat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

``I just don't think she can win,'' Bush said at the Capitol in his strongest statement yet about his fellow Republican's struggling campaign.

The governor has made no secret that he hopes House Speaker Allan Bense will challenge Harris for the Republican nomination. Harris was expected to file her qualifying papers Monday. Bense hasn't made up his mind, his wife, Tonie, said Monday from their Panama City home. The deadline for entering September's primary is Friday.

Harris has been dogged by staff turnover and her acceptance of $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions from defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty to bribing former U.S. Rep. Randy ``Duke'' Cunningham, R-Calif.

Bush also noted that polls show Harris running about 30 points behind Nelson.

``There's not a complicated reason,'' Bush said of his assessment that she can't beat Nelson. ``It's just that's she's not gained any traction, and it seems that, unfortunately through no fault of her own perhaps, the press coverage is all about the problems in her campaign.''

The governor said he was unaware of any other Republicans considering the race for Senate.

Harris rose to national prominence as Florida's secretary of state during the contentious presidential election recount in 2000, the election that resulted in the governor's brother winning Florida by only 537 votes and the presidency. She has been unable to shake that divisive image dispute during two terms in Congress.

Bush said Monday that he wasn't worried about Harris dragging down the Republican ticket.

``Florida voters are pretty sophisticated,'' Bush said. ``They discern the issues well. We're a purple state. Democrats can win. Republicans can win. I don't think anybody can take anything for granted.''