Monday, September 24, 2012

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

Obama expands Florida lead in PPP Poll

"PPP's newest Florida poll finds Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by a 50-46 margin in the state. That represents a 3 point improvement for Obama since PPP's last poll of the state, which was conducted the weekend after the Republican convention. It represents the largest lead PPP has found for Obama in Florida since early June."

"Obama's lead in Florida isn't all about Romney losing ground though. He's pretty strong in his own right with 51% of voters approving of him to 47% who disapprove. That's up a net 7 points from 47/50 before the Democratic convention. This is the first time since April we've found his approval over 50% in the state. Perhaps more importantly Florida voters trust Obama over Romney on the issue of the economy by the same 50/46 margin as the overall numbers- Romney's not getting any traction on that front. And Obama leads 50-45 in terms of who voters have more faith in on foreign policy." "Obama leads by 4 in Florida". See also "PPP FL Poll: Obama 50-Romney 46".

In Florida, "it’s the economy, stupid"

Marc Caputo: "The latest statewide poll by The Miami Herald and its media partners shows a virtual tie in the presidential race in Florida. And it came as a shock to liberals and Democrats. In short, it’s the economy, stupid. Plus a little immigration, foreign policy and healthcare. The data:

• 330,000: the number of homes in foreclosure in Florida. Almost half of all homes are underwater, meaning the owner owes more on the mortgage than the home’s value.

• 67.6 percent: this year’s second-quarter Florida homeownership rate, which hasn’t been this low since about 1999, when 15 percent fewer people lived in the state.

• 8.8 percent: the state’s official unemployment rate, higher than the national average.

• 800,000: the number of people counted within the unemployment rate.

• 399: the number of callers on hold when a Herald reporter recently called to check the waiting time of the state’s “customer service” department for jobless claims.

• 9.8 percent: what the unemployment rate would be if all labor-force-eligible workers who haven’t found work in Florida were counted.

• 60.1 percent: the labor-force participation rate, which hasn’t been this low since 1986.

• 29,000: the amount Florida’s labor force shrank in July.

• 715,000: the number of jobs lost during the 18-month recession.

• 1.4 million: the number of undocumented immigrants deported under President Obama.

• 55-41: the Senate vote that killed the DREAM Act sought by advocates of limited immigration amnesty.

• 4: the number of foreign-service workers, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

• 1979: the last time an ambassador of the United States was killed overseas, in Afghanistan. • $716 billion: the estimated reductions in future increases — commonly called “cuts” — to Medicare under the president’s affordable healthcare act.

• $16 trillion: the current size of the national debt.

• 18 percent: the proportion of Floridians on Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor.

"The parade of horribles goes on, and largely began under Republican leadership."
George W. Bush was president when the recession started and budget deficits ballooned amid unfunded wars, tax cuts and a Medicare prescription-drug benefit.

Republicans have controlled Florida for years. And Gov. Rick Scott and his fellow Republicans made it tougher for people to get jobless benefits. That increases 1) the level of frustration and/or 2) the likelihood people don’t get their checks and spend them quickly.

"But none of the above statistics help Obama . . . . Arguably, they have hurt him. Floridians are hurting in this economy — 51 percent say they are not better off than they were four years ago."
All of this — the Romney gaffes plus the bad economy under Obama — makes for a tight race.
"Romney’s missteps won’t be enough to win Florida for Obama".

Yesterday's poll

"President Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a virtual tie in Florida, according to a Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll that indicates the Democrats’ convention buzz and the Republican’s recent troubles haven’t altered the race in this biggest of battleground states. Obama is drawing 48 percent support to Romney’s 47 percent among likely voters — a lead well within the poll’s 3.5 percent error margin. Only 4 percent are undecided." "Obama 48 percent, Romney 47 percent in hard-fought presidential race in Florida".

"Cash Flows to Hot Races"

"With party primaries finished and the general election looming, new campaign-finance reports show where some of the state's top legislative races will play out in November." "Florida Campaign Cash Flows to Hot Races".

"Three-point shift in Nelson's favor since July"

"The Republican shot at unseating Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is slipping away, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll. Nelson leads Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV 48 percent to 40 percent, a three-point shift in the Democrat's favor since July." "Poll: Nelson's lead over Mack growing". Meanwhile, "Florida's U.S. Senate race about to heat up".

Florida's "slave labor" problem

"Recent cases include Mexican women being lured by the promise of love and a better life to the United States, only to find themselves coerced into prostitution, and 39 Filipino workers being forced to work for little or no pay in exclusive country clubs in Palm Beach County. . . . It refers to the exploitation of people who are forced into situations where they are essentially used as slave labor, in some cases for sexual purposes." "Florida is a 'hub' for human traffickers, attorney general says".

This is an old story: "Tomato Farm Workers - Committee Hearing" and "Farmworkers exploited, even enslaved, in Florida" ("Former Gov. Jeb Bush and his labor emissary openly criticized the [Coalition of Immokalee Workers] for its work for its work").

"Scott’s boasts ringing hollow"

"The competitive businessman in Gov. Rick Scott wants Florida to be No. 1 for jobs."

By most measures, it's not, and in at least one area, it's dead last.
"We've heard conflicting reports about Florida's job creation record, so Scott's argument that the state's falling unemployment rate is brag-worthy piqued [PolitiFact's] interest."
Florida ranks last in the nation when it comes to long-term unemployment, so economists say the shrinking labor force is a natural result. More than half of the 816,000 jobless people in Florida have been looking for work for six months or more, a national record, according to a recent Florida International University study.

Absent the labor pool's contraction, the unemployment rate would be 9.8 percent, Baker's report found. A report from Scott's Department of Economic Opportunity found that if the state's 94,100 discouraged workers were added to the unemployment rolls, the jobless rate would be 9.7 percent.

That's because Florida's job growth rate has been mediocre when compared with other states.

"Scott reassured Florida's economic development leaders, 'We have every reason to brag about what's going on in our state.'"
We found his example of the plummeting unemployment rate over 20 months is not something to tout.

Experts say the reasons behind the drop are mostly grim: Thousands of discouraged workers have given up on finding work in Florida.

The shrinking workforce can be attributed to a number of factors, but the fact that Florida is last in the nation when it comes to long-term unemployment can't be ignored. A major factor in the drop in unemployment is the exodus of people who have simply given up looking for work. Job creation, meanwhile, has been below-average.

So is the unemployment rate decline a positive economic sign for Florida? We say Mostly False.

"Scott’s boasts ringing hollow".

"What’s up with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate?"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "With the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejecting Florida’s request for disaster assistance because of Tropical Storm Isaac, all the usual roles are reversed."

The supposedly spendthrift Obama administration is playing the fiscal conservative, declaring that Florida’s damage wasn’t severe enough for FEMA to reimburse local governments. Damage in Palm Beach County is estimated at $6 million, with most of the problems in the west-central communities.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott, who won’t take money from Washington to implement the health care law, will appeal FEMA’s decision and ask the feds for relief. He calculates the damage in 10 counties at $36.7 million.

Finally, what’s up with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate? He was Florida’s director of emergency management during the hurricane years of 2004 and 2005. He was among many in Florida bugging FEMA about its slow reimbursements. And doesn’t he think his boss might like to win Florida?

"Editorial: In seeking aid for Isaac, Scott now wants D.C.’s money".

"Way too early to coronate Charlie Crist"

"When Charlie Crist was invited to take one of the coveted speaker spots at the Democratic National Convention, it was clear that at some point, Democratic leaders lifted the flaps on their tent so Florida's 44th governor could squeeze under."

Even though Crist remains in his own Republican-turned-independent land of limbo.

The move led by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, has come at the consternation of a number of party members and drawn rebukes from others who have already declared or are considering runs for the governor’s mansion in 2014. That is the path most political insiders in Tallahassee anticipate Crist will take once he firmly attaches the large "D" to his name.

This is something the Republican Party of Florida is fixated upon. It consumed a great deal of time for Republicans as they gathered daily for breakfast during their own national convention at the end of August in Tampa.

But, while polls indicate Crist would provide a more-than-serious challenge to Gov. Rick Scott in two years, there are "down poll" indicators that reflect Crist may be a paper tiger who won’t be fully welcome; something that should have been evident to those who watched his tepid reception and speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C.

"It's way too early for any coronation of Charlie Crist as the Democratic Party's nominee to challenge Rick Scott in 2014," said University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith.

"Charlie Crist Sets up as the Dems' 2014 Paper Tiger".

The best they can do?

Nancy Smith claims that, during last Thursday's Univision forum in Coral Gables, the President made the "false claim" that "the Fast and Furious program began under President George W. Bush." Here's the desperate hair-splitting:

It's true, the G.W. Bush administration did run programs involving ATF agents allowing guns to “walk” across the border "so as to trace them," ABC reported. But it did not do so with the “field-initiated program” known as Fast and Furious.
"ABC Catches Obama Misleading Americans on Fast and Furious During Univision Forum".

"Only once in recent history have Floridians opted not to reduce taxes"

"Among the 11 referendum questions put on the Nov. 6 ballot by the Florida Legislature, five give voters the opportunity to put more tax breaks into the state constitution."

Like many Americans, Floridians love lower taxes, and even with the 60 percent approval required, the tax breaks are expected to pass easily. Only once in recent history have they opted not to reduce taxes, said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who studies constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives.
"Florida voters get to decide 5 amendments that would cut local government taxes $1.3 billion over 3 years".

"Voting laws may disenfranchise 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens"

"New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, a new study said on Sunday, a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election."

Nationwide, polls show Obama leading Romney among Hispanic voters by 70 percent to 30 percent or more, and winning that voting bloc by a large margin is seen as an important key to Obama winning re-election.

The Hispanic vote could be crucial in some of the battleground states where the election is especially close, such as Nevada, Colorado and Florida.

For example, in Florida, 27 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic. With polls showing Obama's re-election race against Romney very tight in the state, a smaller turnout by Hispanic groups that favor Obama could tilt the vote toward the Republican.

"Voting laws may disenfranchise 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens: study".

Koch brothers attack Florida’s corporate tax

"A tea party organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers has launched a vigorous attack on Florida’s corporate income tax, enlisting two dozen Republican legislative candidates who vow to abolish the $2.1 billion levy."

If elected in November, the anti-tax advocates could form a potent bloc in the legislature demanding faster action on erasing the tax, which supplies critical cash to a still-fragile state budget.
"Billionaire brothers launch effort to torpedo Florida corporate income tax".