Sunday, July 15, 2012

Florida Political News for July 15, 2012

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Obama and Romney essentially tied in America’s biggest battleground state

"Brace yourselves for another nail-biter presidential election in Florida."

A new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll finds Barack Obama and Mitt Romney essentially tied in America’s biggest battleground state, with 46 percent of likely Florida voters supporting the president, 45 percent backing the former Massachusetts governor, and 2 percent behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Only 7 percent are undecided.

"A coin toss," Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said. "Typical Florida."

Adding Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to the Romney ticket would only marginally help Romney in must-win Florida. A Romney-Rubio ticket leads Obama-Joe Biden 46 percent to 45 percent in Florida.
"Dig into the numbers, and what’s most surprising is that Obama is at all competitive with Romney:"
• 54 percent of likely Florida voters say the country is on the “wrong track” with Obama at the helm.

• Only 35 percent believe his policies have improved the economy, while 41 percent say they have made it worse.

• 46 percent of voters approve of the president’s job performance, while 50 percent disapprove.

• 52 percent oppose the healthcare overhaul — Obama’s signature achievement recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — and 50 percent of Florida voters want to see it repealed.
"Obama vs. Romney: In Florida it’s a tossup, poll says".

TaxWatch (again) exposed as right wing shill

"Florida TaxWatch: State Leaders Did Right; We'll Back Them in Court in Employees' Pension Battle".

"Whacked-out things about Florida politics"

Scott Maxwell: "There are a lot of whacked-out things about Florida politics. Seriously. We could alphabetize them … and still need Greek symbols. But one of the most harebrained is the way legislators pick House speakers. They do so about six years out, during their first term in office." "Picking House speaker 6 years out is absurd".

Lt. Gov. Carroll denies she was in "a compromising position"

"Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll plans to fight back against charges that she and a female aide were caught in "a compromising position," according to emails Carroll sent to well-wishers from her state account."

The statements came as several emails poured into Carroll’s inbox, according to a review of the Sunburst system, which releases emails from staff in Gov. Rick Scott’s office. All of the emails to Carroll so far have been supportive, with some also taking aim at Carletha Cole — the former employee who accused the lieutenant governor.

Cole is currently facing a trial for illegally disclosing conversations recorded when Cole worked for Carroll.

"I will be fighting back against these blatant lies," Carroll said in an email to Franz Metz, a supporter who asked her to do so.

In another email, Carroll lashes out at the media for reporting the allegations.

"Unfortunately, as an elected official character deformation that is totally fabricated can occur like this and there is not much I can do,"Carroll wrote to Mary Jane and George Duryea of Lake Mary. "The media loves to put out sensational stories without doing due diligence to verify the authenticity."
"Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll to fight allegations".


"At their annual Jefferson Jackson dinner, Democrats seemed more fired up about beating Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 than in defeating Republican Mitt Romney in November." "Florida Democrats slam Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott at annual dinner in Hollywood". See also "Florida Democrats say Rick Scott is liability for Mitt Romney".

Florida hospitals the "biggest losers"

Lloyd Dunkelberger: "If Florida refuses to expand Medicaid under the new federal health care law, hospitals could end up the biggest losers."

The potential financial loss will come to an industry that over the last two years has seen more than $700 million in state budget cuts, including a 5.6 percent Medicaid rate cut that cost $235 million this year.

Additionally, as part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will be phasing out the “disproportionate share” payments to the states that compensate hospitals that have larger numbers of uninsured patients.

The idea is that with the expansion of Medicaid and private insurance under the ACA, the hospitals will not need as much financial support for “uncompensated” care.

But in Florida, it would mean the loss of more than $200 million in disproportionate payments, without an offset by an expanded Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

More financial problems loom with expected cutbacks in Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.

Any changes in Medicare are amplified in Florida, the state with the highest percentage of Medicare recipients and where nearly one out of every five residents depends on the program.
"Firm stance from Scott on Medicaid could hurt hospitals".

"Intriguing chatter"

Adam C. Smith discusses the "intriguing chatter in Washington and Florida political circles lately that DNC chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is considering running for governor in 2014." "Wasserman Schultz for governor of Florida".

Billionaires for Mini-Mack

"While Mack's fundraising has been anemic, [super-PACs] are spending millions, and lining up to spend more, for ads attacking Nelson, in effect eradicating his fundraising advantage. ... Here are the outside groups and their spending:"

- Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political action committee linked to the Koch brothers, Kansas billionaires famous for their top-dollar support of conservative political causes. It announced a two-week, $1 million statewide ad buy in June.

- The 60-Plus Association, a conservative advocacy group based in the Washington, D.C., area, made $1.1 million buys in both March and June. It's organized as an issue advocacy group rather than a PAC or independent political committee, and therefore it doesn't reveal its donors.

- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which did a $2 million statewide ad buy in May.

- Freedom PAC Florida, a Miami-based political action committee supporting Mack, hasn't publicly announced any advertising purchase but has received a $1 million contribution from Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, who became famous for bankrolling Newt Gingrich in the Republican presidential primary. It has also received $50,000 from The Villages retirement community and $20,000 from an organization representing the family of Texas real estate magnate Harlan Crowe.

- Crossroads GPS, one of two sister political groups organized by former George W. Bush political adviser Karl Rove, has spent $1.1 million.

- American Crossroads, the other Rove group, just announced it has reserved $6.2 million worth of air time for the fall, part of a $70 million campaign by the two Crossroads groups to influence control of the U.S. Senate.

- American Commitment, an issue advocacy group formed in April by the previous head of Americans for Prosperity, has a $1.1 million ad buy now running.
"PACs help Mack close huge campaign cash gap".

Chamber hackery

"The Florida Chamber of Commerce has endorsed John Legg in the Senate District 17 race in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, but didn't pick a candidate in the Rachel Burgin-Tom Lee primary race in east Hillsborough or the Jeff Brandes-Jim Frishe race in Tampa-St. Petersburg." "Chamber backs Legg in primary".

Scott's publicity blitz flops

"After 18 months as governor, Rick Scott remains personally unpopular with a majority of Floridians, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll."

But despite voters’ displeasure with Scott, they strongly support his efforts to rid Florida’s voter rolls of noncitizens in this presidential election year.

The latest survey by the nonpartisan Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Jacksonville shows that 51 percent of voters disapprove of Scott’s job performance and 40 percent approve, with 9 percent not sure.

Scott’s positive name recognition also remains low, with 29 percent of voters viewing him favorably, 37 percent unfavorably, 30 percent neutral and 4 percent with no opinion, despite his people-friendly work days, blitz of ceremonial bill signings and frequent visits to high-profile, cable TV shows.

"I like some of his ideas and I don’t care for others," said Josephine Boyington, 64, of Lake City, a Democrat who says she’s leaning toward becoming a Republican. "I liked the idea when he said that the people that were on welfare had to provide drug testing. That would get rid of some of the riff-raff."

Scott, 59, is only the fifth Republican governor of Florida since Reconstruction. He says he will run for a second term in 2014.

A political neophyte and former chief executive of the Columbia HCA hospital chain, Scott spent $73 million of his personal fortune to clinch the governorship in 2010.

The statewide telephone survey of 800 registered voters, all likely to vote in the Nov. 6 general election, was conducted July 9-11 for the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.
"Poll: Voters don’t like Gov. Rick Scott but like his policies".

Scott a "uniquely powerful albatross against Romney"

"With Scott's poll numbers continuing to struggle and Florida a critical battleground in the November election, Democrats see the unpopular businessman governor as a uniquely powerful albatross against Romney, a former Massachusetts governor under fire for his time at the head of private equity firm Bain Capital as he runs against President Barack Obama." "Florida Democrats say Rick Scott is liability for Mitt Romney".

HD 17

"The money is flowing into the First Coast where Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra, faces two challengers in the Republican primary as he seeks a third term in the Florida House." "Doc Renuart Has Financial Edge in Last Weeks of First Coast GOP House Primary".

"'Business-friendly' policymaking binge"

"Responding to an election field upended by redistricting, Florida corporations and interest-groups are flooding a record amount of cash into legislative races that will help finance a blizzard of ads and fliers during the coming months."

In 2010, corporate groups such as the Florida Chamber helped elect business-friendly Republican super-majorities to the House and Senate, which set off a "business-friendly" policymaking binge — gutting Florida's growth laws, repealing hundreds of safety and environmental regulations, and cutting corporate taxes.

Business groups hope to preserve as much of that clout as possible, despite new redistricting maps that theoretically make legislative districts more competitive for Democrats. Despite those maps, though, cash is king in modern electoral warfare.

And new reports filed late Friday detail the millions of dollars flowing into the coffers of candidates — mostly Republicans — and slush-funds they control.

Gov. Rick Scott — who won't even be on the ballot until 2014 — led the way, garnering just over $2.8 million over the last three months and nearly $3.8 million total this year. The biggest checks: $250,000 each from Florida Power & Light, which is pushing to dominate the state's renewable energy market; Las Vegas Sands Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson, whose company wants to build "destination" casinos in South Florida; and former Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga.
"Special interests unleash flood of contributions, especially to Republicans".

Grayson bait

"4 vie to be GOP pick to take on Grayson in House race".

Defended or de-funded?

Aaron Deslatte: "Has Florida's political leadership defended public education or de-funded it over the last two years? The answer you get depends on the party you ask this election season." "Campaign may turn on whether GOP starving or remaking schools".

DWS rejects call to release her tax returns

"While blasting Mitt Romney for not releasing years of income tax returns, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is rejecting an opponent’s call to release her own tax returns." "Wasserman Schultz rejects comparison to Romney on releasing tax returns".

TB now in 18 counties

"TB strain now found in 18 counties in Florida".

"Mack's approach to public service does not inspire confidence"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Mack, 44, has the reputation of an opportunist with an unremarkable record in Congress. The son of the former U.S. senator, he left the Legislature and moved across the state to the Fort Myers area to run for an open U.S. House seat in 2004. He has the expected conservative voting record, opposing the federal stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reforms. ... Beyond his policy positions, Mack's approach to public service does not inspire confidence. He refused to debate his Republican primary opponents or meet with editorial boards, including this one. By one measure, he has missed more than twice as many votes in the House as the average member since taking office. There also remain questions about how much time he spends in his district." "Few options in primaries".

"Rubio is still in the VP mix"

Carl Hiaasen: "Sometime before the Republican National Convention in Tampa next month, Mitt Romney will pick a running mate."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio repeatedly has said he doesn’t want the job. Then he wrote a book about himself and made sure it was published this summer, before Romney decided.

It’s possible that Rubio is 100 percent sincere about not joining the GOP ticket. Perhaps the only point of rushing his autobiography into print was to let America know what a fabulous vice president he would have made, had he been interested in the position. It’s also possible that he’ll jump at the offer if it comes his way.

For Romney, the first step in choosing a running mate is crossing the obvious losers off the list without offending their constituencies, however marginal and loony they might be. The first to go will be his opponents from the GOP primaries. ...

Rubio is still in the VP mix. Florida’s electoral votes will be critical, and polls show that the race here between Romney and President Barack Obama is tight.

National journalists began focusing on Rubio last year, and fresh reporting forced him to revise his much-repeated life story, particularly as it related to the timeline of his parents’ departure from Cuba (they left before, not after, Fidel Castro seized power).

Some say Rubio’s more tolerant stance on immigration could hurt Romney’s stock with the right wing. A counter-argument is that Rubio’s presence in the race could attract Hispanic voters beyond Florida, which the GOP desperately needs.

Either way, Rubio’s chances to make the ticket probably weren’t damaged by his autobiography. He and his ghostwriter (and they all use ghostwriters) were careful to make sure nothing too wacky or incendiary appeared in the pages.

Even the title, An American Son, was crafted free of exclamation points to sound like a personal journey, not a political manifesto. The book has generated virtually no controversy, which should please Team Romney.

Because, after what happened four years ago, the last thing a Republican nominee needs is a running mate who makes waves.

Forget feisty. Forget animated. Forget spontaneous.

All you want is somebody who looks harmlessly vice-presidential, stays on message and says nothing terrifying between now and November.
"No loonies need apply for GOP veep".

"Union bosses"

Fred Grimm can's get "union bosses" out-of-his-mind. He writes that former "BTU President Pat Santeramo was arrested last week and charged with running an utterly banal kickback scheme."

The union hired Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney, to sort out through the wreckage. Coffey suggested that the sort of character failings exhibited by [Santeramo] if he’s convicted, are not limited to union bosses. He talked of CEOs who as they “gain in stature and power, lose sight of the fact that their power is borrowed from the organization.” He talked about how a successful boss can come to think that what’s best for him is best for the company. He told me, “I don’t think this is just a union dynamic.”

Except when a union boss steals money and prestige and power from a constituency of underpaid, demoralized and politically harassed school teachers, the sin seems somehow more odious than the corporate variety.

I wonder too whether South Florida’s atmosphere of ostentatious wealth has contributed to this flurry of ethical lapses and corruption scandals among local political and union leaders. Tornillo was earning $264,000 a year. Santeramo, $189,000. Both far more than their school teacher constituents. Yet in the land of waterfront mansions and super yachts and Italian sports cars, maybe union powerbrokers and elected officials can come to feel underpaid and underappreciated by their minions, deserving of a lifestyle comparable to the big money boys scarfing up the best seats in the finest restaurants.

“Down here, among all this spectacular wealth, you can be a person of very decent means and still be the last person the valet brings his car,” Coffey said. One could almost see how some powerful union or political leaders, confronted with temptation, could talk himself into it, he said.

Of course, the corruption formula still requires those other elements: Unchecked power. An absence of safeguards. A lack of oversight. And the utter disregard for those embattled school teachers, their union dues, their trust and their needs in a treacherous season.
"Unchecked power let union bosses betray teachers".

With these comments, perhaps Grimm might find a few moments to write about the contributions made by Florida's labor unions. Don't count on it ... that wouldn't go over well with management.

Push to allow voters to decide on gambling in SoFla

"Genting Group appears to be intensifying its push to allow voters to make the final decision on whether Las-Vegas style gambling comes to South Florida. Recently released financing reports show a political action group linked to the Malaysia-based conglomerate is spending big on an apparent campaign to get voters to approve a constitutional amendment in favor of resort-style casinos." "Genting dollars fuel possible ballot drive".