Sunday, September 23, 2012

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

Mason Dixon Poll of LVs has Obama ahead by a sliver, 48% to 47%

"A new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll finds 48 percent of likely Florida voters backing Obama, 47 percent supporting Romney, 1 percent with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and just 4 percent undecided."

The needle has barely budged since the last Times/Herald/Bay News 9 poll in July showed Obama leading 46 percent to 45 percent, though Obama's lead with independents grew 6 percentage points while the number of undecided voters dropped 3 points. The good news for Romney? Fifty-two percent of Florida voters say the country is heading in the wrong direction and only 43 percent say it's on the right track. What's more, Romney's recent spate of negative publicity, including the release of a secret recording of him suggesting that the 47 percent of voters backing Obama are dependent on government and view themselves as victims, appears to have done little or no damage to the Republican nominee in Florida.
"Barack Obama, Mitt Romney essentially tied in Florida, new Times/Herald/Bay News 9 poll shows" ("The phone survey of 800 registered Florida voters — all likely to vote in the November election — was conducted Sept. 17-19 for the Times, Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The poll, which included respondents using landlines and cellphones, was conducted by Mason-Dixon, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville-based company. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.") More: "GRAPHIC". The last six Florida polls, including this one, are summarized here.

Why did Rick Scott pay this boletera $5,000?

"A woman who has been linked to Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign bid was given a total of $58,000 in Hialeah funds for home repairs on her $96,000 town house."

In the past five years, [Emelina] Llanes has been a fixture in several political campaigns in Hialeah — for city, state and national office. Gov. Rick Scott paid her $5,000 for working on his 2010 campaign, according to campaign records.

But when interviewed last week, Llanes refused to explain what her job was in the governor’s campaign.

“Anybody can give me a gift of $5,000,” she said. “It’s nobody’s business who gave them to me.”

Later, she denied having received the payment.

“I don’t know anything about those $5,000,” she said. “It’s too much money. With that money I can pay off half of my house. I haven’t received anything.”

"City gave to accused ‘boletera’".

Romney "blew it" with Latino voters

Andres Oppenheimer: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had his best opportunity to reach out to Hispanics and increase his paltry 30 percent support among Latino voters last week when he appeared before a nationally broadcast Univision/Facebook forum in Miami. He blew it." "Romney missed big chance with Latino voters".

Most of the nation's nursing home residents rely on Medicaid

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board points out that "would convert the health care program for the poor, disabled and elderly into a block grant to the states and sharply reduce funding over time. Middle-class Americans should be especially wary, since it's Medicaid, not Medicare, that covers nursing home care for aged and infirm parents and grandparents. Without Medicaid's safety net, it isn't clear what those Americans would do, and Romney doesn't have any good answers."

It's an understandable confusion. People think that since Medicare covers medical services for people over 65, it also pays for nursing home care for elderly people. Medicaid is thought of as a poverty program that provides medical coverage to poor families. But Medicaid is the program that provides long-term care to the elderly and disabled, which accounts for 31 percent of the program's $400 billion annual federal and state spending. Most of the nation's 1.8 million nursing home residents, including more than 77,000 Floridians, rely on Medicaid to pay their bills.
"Romney's lean, mean Medicaid plans for nursing home residents".

Health care an important issue in Florida where 3.9 million residents are uninsured

"Floridians reflect voters' conflicting opinions about health care in this election year. It's an especially important issue in a state where 3.9 million residents are uninsured, 3.5 million are covered by Medicare and 3.2 million depend on Medicaid."

Voters have a clear choice between Obama, who counts the Affordable Care Act as his signature legislative achievement, and Romney, who vows to try to repeal the law starting "on day one" while retaining some of its most popular provisions.

Florida itself embodies that conflict: The state so far has refused any steps to implement the new law yet could be among its biggest beneficiaries.

Florida led a lawsuit by Republican-run states that challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. And Gov. Rick Scott has turned down millions of dollars of federal grants to create a state-run "exchange" — an online shopping site — to help consumers compare insurance plans and prices.

Scott and some Republicans in the Legislature also plan to block a dramatic expansion of Medicaid coverage under the law — which the high court allowed states to refuse — though the federal government would pay all the added costs for three years and more than 90 percent in later years.

Many voters side with Scott's and Romney's opposition for fear that the so-called "Obamacare" will prove costly, despite some projections that it will save money in the long run.

"Florida's conflict over health-care law divides voters".

"Take out your checkbook but pocket your iPhone"

Carl Hiaasen: "Mitt Romney returned to Florida last week, only this time his handlers cautioned donors not to make video recordings at private fund-raising events. In other words, take out your checkbook but pocket your iPhone."

It was in Boca Raton on May 17 when Romney stood up in a mansion and dumped on “47 percent” of Americans, whom he characterized as “victims” and “dependents” who paid no income taxes. . . .

He was close only with his statistic — about 46 percent of U.S. households paid no federal income taxes last year. If Romney had visited some non-gated communities in Florida, he would have gotten a chance to meet some of those non-taxpayers.

They worked hard their whole lives, and now rely on Social Security payments bolstered by tax breaks enacted for seniors.

In truth, about half of all Americans benefit from some type of federal program. Everybody who’s reading this column has, or will have, a family member who uses Medicare to see a doctor, or who cashes a monthly Social Security check.

You probably never thought of them as victims or, in the Republican parlance, “takers.” They don’t think of themselves that way, either.

Meanwhile, "Romney’s mission in South Florida last week was twofold."
First, he was reaching out to Hispanics, a voting segment he’s had trouble connecting with.

That won’t change as long as he makes lame jokes about wishing he was a Mexican.

His second reason for coming was to raise more campaign money at private events. Newly mindful of a cell phone’s video capabilities, he likely was more careful about what he said out loud to donors.

That 47 percent figure is one he should definitely steer away from.

A report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center shows that among those non-taxpayers whom Romney derided are lots of millionaires — a prized demographic.

Imagine that. About 4,000 American households earning more than $1 million paid zero income tax in 2011.

These are the folks that Romney can’t afford to insult, the ones with the dough. It’s safer to bash the less fortunate.

"Mitt’s party: Checks OK, iPhones not".

"The Sunshine State jinx"

Myriam Marquez: "There’s something about Florida as ground zero for the collapse of presidential campaigns. The Sunshine State jinx, if you will."

The 2000 hanging chads nail-biter decided in effect by the Supremes was an omen of presidential battles ahead. Then came John McCain’s beginning of the end, on Black Monday, September 2008, when the GOP presidential candidate told a Jacksonville crowd, in a state where the housing market already was collapsing, that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” Boom! McCain never recovered.

Now it’s a secret video of Mitt Romney made public through lefty Mother Jones magazine. (Courtesy of Jimmy Carter’s grandson who found it on the Internet -- can the political intrigue get any better?)

At the $50,000 a plate Palm Beach County pow-wow, Romney does the math his way, pouncing on the “47 percent” of freeloaders who depend on government programs to survive and are the same folks, the former Massachusetts governor told his rich donors, who will never vote for him.

"That didn’t go over well with independent voters, who are the ones who will decide who wins in battleground states like Florida."
Here’s a snapshot taken last Wednesday by Gallup: Thirty-six percent of registered voters surveyed said Romney’s comments make them less likely to vote for him, while 20 percent said the remarks make them more likely to vote for him. For independents, 29 percent say are less likely to vote for Romney after his “47 percent” remark.

And another snapshot: Forty-three percent of voters in a Reuters poll say they view Romney less favorably after his comments. Sixty percent said he “unfairly dismissed” almost half of American voters. We know he unwittingly dismissed at least a third of his supporters in that group. . . .

A sign of trouble for Romney: The Reuters poll found 67 percent of voters surveyed said they identified with the 47 percent, more so than the well-heeled at the mansion where Romney laid out his numbers.

So you can see the Democrats salivating victory. Not so fast.

Just around this time of year, Ronald Reagan trailed Jimmy Carter in mid September 1980 in a Gallup poll. Al Gore was narrowly ahead of George W. Bush in September 2000 and it remained a toss up till the end.

"Florida’s jinx on presidential campaigns".

"Campaign malarkey"

Scott Maxwell: "Welcome to political season — where up is down, black is white and the sky isn't necessarily always blue." "Dig through campaign malarkey for answers".

Haitian community boleteros

"So-called boleteros have long been a part of the political firmament in largely Hispanic enclaves in Miami-Dade. But they are part of a burgeoning cottage industry in the Haitian community." "Ballot brokers also target Haitian vote".

Fabulist Ryan overlooks Florida's death penalty fetishists

"Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Saturday derided President Obama's space program and called his administration's requirement that hospitals and universities, including Catholic ones, be required to offer contraception an 'assault on religious liberty.'"

Ryan promised at a town hall meeting in Orlando that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would reverse the contraception mandate on “Day 1” if he is elected president. The mandate requiring all insurance plans to include access to contraception was part of Obama's health care overhaul.

Ryan's comments came in a response to a woman's question about whether he would ask Vice President Joe Biden in a debate how he reconciles his views as a Roman Catholic with the Democratic Party platform.

Both Ryan and Biden are Catholic.

“It will be gone. I can guarantee you that,” Ryan told the crowd of 2,200 supporters in an arena at the University of Central Florida.

Strange that Ryan didn't get to the part where the Roman Catholic Church - at least on paper - opposes the death penalty fetishism that dominates Florida's Republican party.

As for NASA,

derided the Obama administration's space program, a sensitive subject in central Florida where thousands of jobs have been lost since the end of the space shuttle program last year.
Ryan conveniently overlooked his nasty habit of "repeatedly voting against NASA funding." "Ryan blasts contraception requirement in Orlando".

Hillsborough Dems' fundraising dinner

"Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, one of the top young rising stars in the national Democratic Party, stirred up the crowd at a Hillsborough County Democrats' fundraising dinner Saturday, telling those attending that Tampa is 'perhaps one of the most critical cities in America, in perhaps the most important election in generations.'" "Newark mayor Booker lauds local Democrats at fundraiser".

Tebow in politics?

"Tim Tebow might have a future in politics".

"A long, crowded, wordy ballot"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "In a few weeks, Florida voters will face a long, crowded, wordy ballot. Its complexity is a key reason why many citizens are being urged to vote absentee." "Absentee ballot alert".

Ryan neglects to mention he opposed Cuba trade embargo

"U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan got the Cuban exile seal of approval Saturday at a campaign rally in Little Havana where he pledged to hold a hard line against the Castro regime. The Republican vice presidential nominee did not mention that he once opposed the U.S. trade embargo against the island". "In Little Havana, Paul Ryan pledges hard line on Cuba".

Racism "hidden in oblique language, false controversies and putative 'jokes'"

A Leonard Pitts Jr. reader spotted a South Florida

bumper sticker that read: 2012 Don’t Re-Nig.
Pitts writes that "the sentiment that bumper sticker expresses has been part of the Obama narrative since before he took office."
Some of us grapple with a sense of racial and cultural dislocation, the jolting sensation in a changing nation, that their prerogatives as white people, assumptions so ingrained as to have never previously required the slightest thought, are now in question. They want “their” country back. As the great satirist Randy Newman sings in a new ballad:

“I’m dreaming of a white president

Just like the ones we’ve always had

A real live white man who knows the score

How to handle money or start a war.”

But for others of us, it’s not anything so nuanced as a sense of dislocation — just the same old hate as always.

Either way, the world has changed enough that one cannot openly express such things. So instead, it gets hidden in oblique language, false controversies and putative “jokes.”

"Racist bumper stickers don’t stop dreams o...".

As one journalist put it four years ago, "West-Central Florida produced 'some of the most racist, virulent, inane hate speech one could imagine'". And the racisim isn't always "hidden in oblique language, false controversies and putative 'jokes'": when Obama first ran for president, an the following e-mail was "sent by Hillsborough County Republican Party chairman":

This e-mail was sent to me from one of our Volunteers in the Temple Terrace office. If you think it can help us win this election please pass it on. This election is now in our hands everyone can make a difference.

Thanks . . .



"GOP e-mail raises charges of racism" (capitalization original, underscoring supplied).

The charming Mr. West

The charming U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation,

has labeled the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus communists; likened Democratic talking points to Nazi propaganda; called Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz “vile” and “despicable” and “not a lady; and said those who would leave Medicare unchanged can “kiss the United States of America goodbye.”
"Both sides making West’s rhetoric an issue in closely divided District 18".

Here's an idea ... hire more bus drivers

"Broward schools pay $12 million in bus driver overtime".

Still no explanation as to why "La'Tasha" flunked Scott's background test

Lucy Morgan: "What is the world coming to when a governor starts using the time and resources of the state's top law enforcement agency to do background checks on parents who want to talk to him about public education?"

That's what Gov. Rick Scott has been doing. Not much chance of hearing anything he doesn't want to hear this way.

Don't the folks at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have enough to do?

The practice came to light recently when a parent in Tallahassee complained that she was denied access to a meeting with the governor. Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, refused to disclose why La'Tasha Reed Dullivan flunked its background test to attend a session of the governor's education "listening tour.''

It's particularly curious because Dullivan has passed background tests since 1993 in connection with her job as a child care worker and a Medicaid provider who screens young children. Those tests included fingerprinting, driving records and a search for any arrest record.

Concerned after she was rejected, Dullivan ran a check on herself, paying the $24 the FDLE charges for access to its database, and found no trace of a criminal history. Dullivan suspects she was rejected because she is a registered Democrat. The governor's staff denies it was a political party question, but no one will say why she flunked. . . .

Something is fundamentally wrong when background checks are being routinely run on Floridians meeting with the governor, at least one person is rejected for reasons that are not explained — and the claim that it's just the way it always has been done is at odds with the truth.

"Whoever's to blame, heavy vetting must stop".

"A difference between hearing and listening"

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board "can't help but ask the would-be education governor, what took so long? Surely he heard the howls in his rookie year after he slashed $1.3 billion in K-12 funding — after first proposing a more than $4 billion cut."

Then, there is a difference between hearing and listening.
"Scott has listened, now must lead on education".

"Election is going to turn on the turnout of anybody-but-Obama voters"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Recent polls have shown Romney and Obama running neck-and-neck, but Obama appears to have held onto a post-convention boost in swing states, including Florida."

In Florida, where a victory is considered crucial for a presidential win, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in voter registrations. But independents, more than 20 percent of the electorate and growing, are swayed by a more calculated approach, Watson said.

Motivating voters is complicated, said University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith.

Some evidence shows that negative ads are effective in raising questions about candidates among undecided voters and those who already intend to vote, Smith said. But going negative can backfire, he said.

“People want an affirmative reason to turn out to vote,” he said. “For registered voters who are not terribly interested in politics, negative ads may indeed suppress their likelihood to turn out.”

Obama’s victory in 2008, however, was in part due to an “anybody but a Republican” attitude prevalent among Democratic voters who closely associated GOP nominee Sen. John McCain with President George W. Bush, said University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus.

“You get the reverse of it right now. I think this election is going to turn on the turnout of those anybody-but-Obama voters,” she said. A potential enthusiasm gap on the part of young voters who turned out 2-to-1 for Obama in 2008 could make the difference, especially in Florida, MacManus said.

"Will 'anyone-but-Obama' strategy work for Romney?".

"A shill for the insurance industry and a GOP puppet"

In 1990, "Tom Gustafson was capping a 14-year career as a state lawmaker by wrapping up a two-year stint as House speaker before largely disappearing from public life."

At the same time, Bill Hager was moving to Boca Raton from his native Iowa to head NCCI, a 900-employee nonprofit that collects workers compensation and employee injury stats and makes insurance rate recommendations to various state governments, including Florida.

Twenty-two years later, the two 60-something lawyers, who took far different paths into political life and spout far different views, are facing off against each other. Both want to serve in the Florida House, representing 113,000 Palm Beach County residents who live in the newly created District 89, which hugs the coast from Boca Raton to Singer Island and is fairly evenly split between among Republicans (37 percent), Democrats (36 percent) and independents (27 percent). . . .

Branding his opponent as a shill for the insurance industry and a GOP puppet, he said the legislature needs an infusion of new ideas. Although many of his ideas smack of measures he championed decades ago, he insists he is the man to do it.

"Former Democratic House speaker challenges GOP incumbent in new coastal District 89".


"Ryan appeared with a guayabera-clad former Gov. Jeb Bush, one of the GOP’s most popular figures with Hispanic [Cuban] voters." Meanwhile "Obama enjoys a big lead among Hispanic voters in Florida and elsewhere". "Jeb Bush joins Ryan to court Latinos in Miami". See also "Paul Ryan courts Cuban-Americans on South Florida campaign swing".

"Even Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer"

"Supporters of the government-revenue limit on the November ballot call it a common-sense check on the temptation for Florida policymakers to spend beyond taxpayers' means. Critics of Amendment 3 call it something else: too conservative for even Arizona."

Even Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the face of hard-line-conservative immigration overhaul, vetoed a similar revenue cap last year, saying policymakers should learn from the failed Colorado experiment.

Florida's version has drawn organized opposition from teachers and public-employee unions, voting-rights groups and the Oakland, Calif.-based religious community organization PICO, which works for "equitable funding for schools." It has given $100,000 to a political fund to fight the amendment called "No on 3."

"It has kept businesses from coming to Colorado with good-paying jobs. It has had a very marked impact on health care and infrastructure," said Florida League of Women Voters President Deirdre Macnab, whose group is opposing the amendment. "These kinds of failed issues in other states are the last thing the Legislature should be bringing to the people of Florida."

"Would Amendment 3's revenue cap help or hurt?".