The source told us that ever since Grayson won in 2008, two names have topped the GOP's list of potential challengers. The first is former state Sen. Dan Webster, who briefly ran for Senate in 2004 before dropping out of the Republican primary, and was considered by Gov. Charlie Crist for the recent appointment. "He's kind of a conservative icon down there," the source said, "but also respected by the other side of the aisle, seen as a very clean elder statesman."
The other top prospect is Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, who has high name recognition and the ability to raise a lot of money. However, Crotty has been hammered in the local media due to toll increases on a local bridge, and potential ethics questions.
Beyond those two, other potential contenders include state rep. Steve Precourt, state Sen. Andy Gardiner, and unidentified people in the private sector who might be able to match Grayson for self-financing.
So did the GOP miss an opportunity by not having a candidate yet? Remember that Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) "You lie!" outburst triggered a spontaneous netroots push for donations to Wilson's Democratic opponent Rob Miller. But in this case, there was no opponent for people to give their money to.
"Whenever we do have a candidate -- and right now when we don't, with this fund -- I think it will be a boon to them even if they get in two weeks from now or a month from now," the source said. "I think donors down there, donors in D.C., small-dollar donors across the country -- this is not something that will be forgotten soon. And when a strong, credible candidate emerges, I believe they will be able to take advantage of this incident. Not to the extent that Rob Miller or Joe Wilson did, but to an extent that will be helpful."