From her hospital room at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) has scheduled a news conference this afternoon. This news has thrown Republican and Democratic politicos in Washington and Florida into a swirl of speculation that Hawkins may be (A) dropping out of the Senate race, (B) announcing that, rumors aside, she is perfectly healthy or (C) reporting she's not totally healthy but healthy enough.
Adding to the speculation was an announcement that Rep. Connie Mack III (R-Fla.) will hold a news conference in Florida a few hours earlier than Hawkins'. One of his top aides in Washington acknowledged last night it was "a good bet" that Mack's ambition for higher office might be discussed in the news conference.
Republican insiders who would be expected to know if one of their key candidates was suddenly dropping out of the race insisted last night that they had no word. Tom Griscom, director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he had heard the rumors from Florida but had gotten no word, official or otherwise, from the Hawkins or Mack camps.
Hawkins has been undergoing periodic treatment for injuries she says she sustained when a television prop fell on her four years ago. She checked into the Duke medical center last weekend under an assumed name.
Polls in Hawkins' reelection race put her at least a dozen points behind Gov. Bob Graham (D), and Republican experts have listed the Florida race as one of the toughest for Republicans in their attempt to hold onto Senate control in 1986.