Tom Rooney opening the door to U.S. Senate bid?

A local tea party gathering that had all the makings of a small, ho-hum affair instead drew a big crowd — and had many wondering if U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney may be chewing over a U.S. Senate bid.

Pamela Wohlschlegel, president of the Palm Beach County Tea Party, said she expected a significantly smaller crowd due to the holiday and the fact that the headliner was anyone other than West.

But more than 200 guests showed up to hear the Rooneys speak, and the crowd didn’t leave disappointed. While their styles were notably more understated than West’s, the Rooney brothers had plenty of interesting things to say – including possible hints that one of them may be weighing a run for U.S. Senate.

That’s the impression many in the crowd left with when U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney shared comments he made to his wife over a recent beer: “Maybe I should run for senate,” he said jokingly. “You know, six years, and you basically do nothing but write books or something, and get paid for it.”

Rooney’s demeanor turned more serious as he went on to talk about the need for someone to replace U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who Rooney said has done a terrible job as senator.

Rooney and his brother, Florida Rep. Pat Rooney, commonly speak at the same events, injecting a little humor and brotherly love into their speeches. But this time, it was an expanded family affair. Tom Rooney arrived with his wife, Tara, and three boys.

Both lawmakers spoke briefly, then opened the floor to questions.

When reached by phone the next day, US Rep. Rooney said, “I am not running for the U.S. Senate. I was just having some fun at the Senate’s expense.”

But later in the same conversation, Rooney did leave the door slightly ajar, saying, “If none of the current candidates catches on, I might take another look at the race down the road, although even then, it’s highly unlikely I would run.”

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