Matt Towery

The other major player in the race is businessman Dan Quiggle. He's a political upstart who has virtually no ties to the Republican heavyweights. Quiggle's chief qualification is that he once worked for Ronald Reagan once Reagan had left the White House. Quiggle is running on a conservative activist platform that seems to have propelled him into a dogfight with Thrasher. Quiggle is a new face, and he heads up the Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a national group devoted to fighting taxes and big government.

Clearly something is going on in Florida. This is a tug-of-war that will be repeated in Republican primaries now through the 2012 presidential race.

Team Quiggle has released polling numbers that show him leading the race by nearly 9 percent.

But hold on. Our InsiderAdvantage poll of the race, conducted this week, shows things much tighter. Quiggle holds a one-point lead. That's well within the survey's margin of error. So for now, voters are evenly split.

So, you might say, this is just another close race between two Republicans, right? Absolutely wrong. These guys might as well be surrogates for the big dogs who will be running to determine the path the GOP takes in the future on a national stage.

Thrasher has all sorts of experience as a party leader, a former top legislator and a very successful lobbyist. He is older than Quiggle, but has a distinguished and attractive appearance. He represents the conservative but pragmatic side of the GOP that was exhibited by both President Bush 41 and President George W. Bush. Thrasher won't likely rock any boats, but he will continue to carry the GOP baton.

Quiggle has a slightly more youthful look. He seems to be relying heavily on his avid involvement in recent conservative "tea parties" and on his support of concepts related to tax-and-spend government. Among those most supportive of Quiggle are those who identify themselves as "conservatives." Many of them support the "Fair Tax" advocated by many conservative talk show hosts, such as Neal Boortz and Sean Hannity.

The net significance of this seemingly modest political square-off -- it might draw 15,000 voters -- is that it likely will tell us if the GOP establishment that has controlled the party in recent years will stand, or whether Republican voters might buck their own system, roll the dice and test the unknown.

Unlike pollsters who produce polls to please their clients, ours are conducted to meet very rigorous media standards. And our poll says, "Watch this race." It's anyone's ballgame and may indicate bigger, future events for the Republican standard.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery