Sunday, August 26, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

The Florida GOP's "repressive political ploy"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "If you want an idea of what’s wrong with Florida’s election 'reforms' and its battle against voter 'fraud,' look no further than the events of the past few weeks."

First, a panel of federal judges rejected state lawmakers’ cynical effort to shorten the early voting period. Then, Gov. Scott got into a standoff over the matter with the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections (a fellow Republican, no less), who he threatened with “all necessary and appropriate action” if he doesn’t shorten early voting to just eight days like the rest of Florida. We’re little more than two months from the presidential election, and it’s come to this. Instead of focusing on aspects of voting where there’s significant evidence of fraud (see the case of Deisy Cabrera, a political operative in Miami found this month with a stack of absentee ballots and charged with illegally signing a senior’s ballot), Florida officials are saber-rattling with an independent elections supervisor. The problem with the governor’s threat: The repressive new state rules don’t apply to Monroe County or the four other counties where election rule changes require federal preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. Not after the federal court rejected them. Harry Sawyer Jr, the Monroe County elections supervisor, says reducing early voting from 12 to 8 days will reduce turnout, so he’s refusing to do it. Since he doesn’t have to comply, it’s not only a sensible choice, it’s the right one.
"During the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 gubernatorial election, early voting lasted at least 12 days (and in some counties 14), with polls required to be open across Florida for a total of 96 hours."
Under the new law, passed last year over the howls of voter-rights groups, early voting has been reduced to eight days, and county elections supervisors can choose to keep polls open for as many as 96 or as few as 48 hours. ... Why was the early voting change rejected [by the three-judge federal panel]? The court said state officials failed to prove the changes would not harm minority voting. And no wonder. Consider this: In 2008, more than half of black voters cast ballots during early voting – double the rate for white voters. Shortening the early-voting hours is, then, likely to disproportionately affect black voters. That’s the essence of voter repression: reduced opportunity equals reduced votes. Gov. Scott points out that the court indicated it would approve the new early-voting rules if all five preclearance counties agree to keep polls open for 12 hours a day. But Monroe County is not compelled to do so, and we see no reason why it should. If the governor and state lawmakers want a voter law that doesn’t illegaly reduce minority voter turnout, they should redraw this one, not bully the independent county elections supervisors into complying with a repressive political ploy.
"Real election reform wouldn’t curtail early voting".

"Florida is must-win state for Romney"

"For Mitt Romney and the Republicans, Florida is a must-win, the indispensable make-or-break prize they must capture on Election Day to regain the White House."

For President Barack Obama, Florida is the potential clincher, the knock-out punch, the big boost he may not need in terms of Electoral College votes but would love to have to ease his path to a second term and strengthen his mandate to govern.
"As the Republicans mass for their convention, here's what the political math shows:"
• Based on recent opinion polls and past voting patterns, Romney today could claim 191 electoral votes in states where he is leading. Without Florida, he would need to win nearly all of the other swing states to reach a total 270 electoral votes and replace Obama. Political analysts consider that a daunting, virtually impossible task. • States where the president is leading would give him 232 electoral votes. If Obama holds onto those and adds 29 from Florida, he would need to win only one or two small swing states to score the remaining nine electoral votes to secure re-election. Even if Obama loses Florida, he still could put together a winning combination from some of the other swing states: Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico and Iowa, which have a combined total of 86 electoral votes.
"Florida is must-win state for Romney; clincher for Obama".

"Maybe you know Florida for its freak-show nature ..."

Adam C. Smith and Charles Mahtesian: "Welcome to Florida, Republican conventioneers."

Let’s not mince words: You are in the most important state in America. You already know this is America’s biggest battleground and that if Mitt Romney loses our 29 electoral votes Barack Obama is almost certainly re-elected. But with Florida it’s more than that. This is a mega state so diverse that it mirrors the nation’s moods, sentiments and demographics. Florida is America — today’s America and tomorrow’s.
"Floridians are Southerners, Midwesterners, Northeasterners. They’re also Cubans, Brazilians, Indians and Germans. Nearly two-thirds came from another state, and one in five was born outside the United States."
So maybe you know Florida for its freak-show nature — the Butterfly ballot, Miami’s face-eating zombie, a magnet for mystics, carnies and charlatans — but it’s more than fascinating. Thousands of Republicans will gather in Tampa this week for the Republican National Convention to sort out the nation’s problems and possibilities and make Romney their presidential nominee. Why here? Because if you’re going to declare you’re the party to make this nation better, there is no more important nor strategic place to make that point than Florida. Been here before Miami hosted three national party conventions in 1968 and 1972, but the state back then was known more for its exoticism and in political terms, it was a middleweight at best, with 17 electoral votes. Today it has 29 electoral votes, far more than any other presidential battleground. We are America’s fourth-biggest state and stalking New York as No. 3. But California and New York are reliably blue-voting states, and Texas still solidly red.
"Welcome, GOP conventioneers, to fun, complicated Florida". See also "This Week in Tampa", "RNC will test whether event can nudge Florida swing votes" and "No spoilers, but Tampa has drama". Poor Ricky, he's gotta at least act like a Gub'ner: "Gov. Scott cancels appearance at convention". Meanwhile, Myriam Marquez is "On to Tampa to follow Romney the Tin Man".

Why bother?

Mary Ellen Klas: "In an election season dominated by headlines of voter fraud, dirty tricks and enormous campaign checks, two troubling trends have gotten little attention: low voter turnout and dozens of unopposed candidates." "Florida's unwanted election year trends: fewer voters, unopposed candidates".

Scott's "deceitful way to keep the jobs picture looking better than it is"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "It turns out there may be another reason besides Gov. Rick Scott's job creation efforts that the number of Floridians seeking unemployment checks has been dropping. The Internet application for benefits is so cumbersome and the state's phone lines are so jammed that the unemployed give up in frustration. Whether intentional or not, running an unemployment compensation operation that makes it so difficult to file claims is a deceitful way to keep the jobs picture looking better than it is."

Florida ranks last in the nation when it comes to the number of unemployed people who receive jobless benefits, an average weekly check of $230. Just one in three of those applicants receive compensation, and only, apparently, if they are dogged about getting it. Scott is not without accomplices. The Republican-led Legislature has reduced benefits for recipients from a maximum of 26 weeks to 23 weeks and made it harder to qualify. Applications — including a 45-question skills assessment — are only taken online. And applicants must prove they are contacting at least five employers weekly to maintain benefits.
"Florida turns its back on the unemployed".

Alleged "editorial board" rewrites history

The pusillanimous Miami Herald editorial board, which infamously folded like a cheap suit as the master overruled the board's decision to endorse Walter F. Mondale, is again rewriting history this doggerel today:

Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both popular conservatives willing to cross party lines without compromising their principles when Floridians’ best interests demanded it in Tallahassee, will be spotlighted in Tampa.
"Bring back the GOP big tent".

'Ya reckon?

"'The Constitution does not need to be scrapped; it needs to be abided by,' thundered Jim Clymer, Constitution Party vice presidential candidate and former party chairman, to a smattering of an audience at the 2012 Ron Paul Festival, as hundreds more people frequented the vendors in the neighboring Expo Hall." "Constitution Party VP Jim Clymer Makes His Case at Ron Paul Fest". See also "Day One of Ron Paul Fest: Jaded Conservatives, Libertarians Celebrate Liberty".

Protesters bring modern 'Hooverville' to Tampa

"Among the groups sponsoring or participating in the March on the RNC are labor unions, student organizations, immigrant rights advocates, anti-war groups and local Occupy groups. New York’s Occupy group is sending three busloads of demonstrators to participate in a key march Monday. About 50 groups have endorsed another umbrella group, resistRNC, including the feminist anti-war group CODEPINK and advocates for the homeless." "Protesters bring modern ‘Hooverville’ to GOP convention city".


"Trump 'bigger than Isaac,' will appear at Sarasota dinner".

Yet more unctuous Jeb-doggerel

Myriam Marquez makes up for at least a month without her routinely unctuous Jeb-worship, with this drivel today: Jeb Bush, who as Florida governor had to face more hurricanes than many of his predecessors, had that special touch ... with hurricane victims who cried on his shoulders as he rushed from one emergency center to another to help ensure there were plentiful supplies. I remember watching him at one such site in Osceola County. Such empathy during a crisis seemed to come naturally to him."

Adam Smith is equally guilty in this puff piece: "A conversation with Jeb Bush".

"Jeb!" declares Romney an Everyman

The son and brother of presidents - who as far as we can tell has never filled out a job application himself - declares that the latest Republican with a swiss bank account is an Everyman: "Jeb Bush: Romney can connect with Americans".

"Citizens executives spent lavishly on themselves"

"Citizens Property Insurance executives spent lavishly on themselves even as they pleaded poverty and raised rates by unprecedented amounts to its 1.4 million customers, a Herald/Time investigation has found."

A Herald/Times review of hundreds of expense reports filed over the past three years shows that Citizens executives spent lavishly on themselves even as they pleaded poverty and raised rates by unprecedented amounts. Traveling executives often stayed in luxury hotels costing as much as $600 a night even when less expensive accommodations were available nearby. Free of spending caps imposed on rank-and-file employees, executives dined at swank restaurants and repeatedly spent more than $50 per person on such fare as rack of venison, sea bass and dungeness crab. Citizens spent tens of thousands of dollars on travel just in Florida, including trips to board meetings held in four-star hotels. Citizens’ chief financial officer broke company rules at least five times by using corporate credit cards to pay for alcoholic beverages and personal expenses. Just how much have Citizens’ top executives spent on travel and meals in the past three years? Even company accountants aren’t sure.
"Higher premiums for customers, lavish spending for Citizens executives". Meanwhile, "Citizens creates job for top official’s former aide".