Friday, October 12, 2012

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

Romney opens a 7 percentage-point lead over Obama

"Republican Mitt Romney has opened a large, 7 percentage-point lead over President Barack Obama in must-win Florida, according to a new poll of likely voters conducted for The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald and the Tampa Bay Times."

Romney’s 51-44 percent advantage is just on the cusp of the poll’s error margin — and it marks a dramatic 8-point shift since last month.

“Obama’s now swimming upstream,” said Brad Coker, pollster with Mason Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey of 800 likely Florida voters this month and last for The Herald and its news partners, including Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13.

The previous poll, which showed Obama with an inside-the-error-margin lead, was before last Wednesday’s debate when Obama gave a lackluster performance while Romney appeared to excel.

This latest poll showed that 5 percent of those who said they were undecided before the debate say they’ll vote for Romney. And 4 percent of those who said they favored Obama pre-debate moved away from the president — 2 percent toward Romney and 2 percent undecided.

"Florida poll: Debate helps Romney leap past Obama". More polls: "Two polls show tie, narrow Obama lead in Florida".

The one percent blues

John Romano has some fun with Orlando's creepy time share mogul, remarking that Mr. "Siegel is no different from any other working stiff. Any other working stiff on the Forbes 400 list, that is."

Siegel said as much in 2008 when he was ordered by a jury to pay more than $5 million to a former employee who had filed a sexual harassment suit.

"Those people were not my peers,'' Siegel told an Orlando TV station. "I mean, they should have had Bill Gates here if they want to have a jury of my peers.'' . . .

Doesn't every new home have 10 kitchens, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink, two movie theatres, two tennis courts, a baseball field, a video arcade and a 20-car garage?

"He's just a regular, megarich kind of guy".

"One of the scariest addresses in Florida"

"Nancy Watkins' accounting office on a leafy street in South Tampa may be one of the scariest addresses in Florida — for Democrats. Inside the whitewashed, one-story structure, Watkins tracks millions of dollars in fundraising and spending that flow through dozens of shadowy political committees backing Republican candidates and causes." "Tampa accountant keeps tabs on GOP's campaign cash".

Plus they read books and stuff

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott is asking his chief inspector general to review the contracts of the 28 presidents who serve in the state college system." "Gov. Scott wants probe of college president salaries".

"Mike Horner" is not the guy hanging out at the brothel

"Republicans involved in the District 42 House race between Republican Michael LaRosa and Democrat Eileen Game say the Democratic Party of Florida is deliberately attempting to trick voters into believing they're voting for Rep. Mike Horner, the candidate who resigned on Sept. 24 and is no longer in the race." "Deception in District 42: Democrat Mailer Passes Off Disgraced Mike Horner as Michael LaRosa".

"Student goals based on race"

"The plan calls for ambitious but realistic goals, the Florida Department of Education says." "Florida to measure student goals based on race".

Martinez drops absentee ballot suit

"Almost two months after losing a run for county mayor and filing a lawsuit suggesting fraud involving absentee ballots, County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez has decided to abandon his quest."

Martinez and Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia, who also lost, filed complaints after the election, seeking to throw out absentee ballots in light of an ongoing investigation in Hialeah that has netted two arrests for alleged fraud. Had the more-than 80,000 absentee ballots not been counted, Garcia would have won his election over challenger Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Martinez would be in a Nov. 6 runoff against Gimenez.
"Joe Martinez drops lawsuit over absentee ballots in losing race for Miami-Dade mayor".

"Can Cannon make the same claim? Even in front of a mirror?"

Daniel Ruth: "Lame duck (in more ways than one) Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon was in a grumpy mood. These sorts of things happen when term-limited big shots on the way out the door are being accused of engaging in specious, politically motivated, pouty efforts to subvert the integrity of the Florida Supreme Court."

Oh, the nerve of some people!

So there was Cannon railing against criticisms of Amendment 5, which would allow the Florida Senate to confirm appointments to the high court and grant the House speaker access to the investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Cannon also is among the Republicans pushing voters to oust three Supreme Court justices up for merit retention because they had the temerity to take three of the Legislature's proposed constitutional amendments off the 2010 ballot. He had an overly ripe riposte for his critics, noting they delude themselves into casting "politics as a kind of Great Morality Play."

It is noteworthy that the speaker's characterization of his detractors as being unduly preoccupied with morality was intended as a criticism.

"Who knows if Sam Gibbons had an opportunity to read Cannon's column, which appeared on these pages a day before he died Wednesday at 92. "
But I think I knew Gibbons well enough to suspect the former congressman might have offered up an harrumph or two with the thought: "That's one of the most bone-headed things I've ever read from an elected official."

When practiced at its most ideal level, the legislative process should indeed be viewed through the prism of a Great Morality Play.

Sam Gibbons certainly did that. During a 44-year political career — from his early service in the Florida Legislature through more than three decades as a congressman — Gibbons was at the forefront of the some of the most profound social and moral issues in the nation's history.

He was a major figure in the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the founding of Head Start, Medicare and a host of antipoverty programs. He also was the guiding force behind the creation of the University of South Florida.

These were more than pieces of dryly written legislation. They were programs designed to help improve the lives of people. What is more moral than that? Isn't that the whole idea behind public service?

Gibbons wasn't always right. He came late to admitting the folly of his support for the war in Vietnam. He could be testy. But we don't elect people to office because they are omniscient. Or perfect. It is enough to expect them to be intellectually honest. And Gibbons more than passed that litmus test.

Can Cannon make the same claim? Even in front of a mirror?

Much more here: "Morality play antagonists".

Teabaggers in a dither

"The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted last week to seasonally adjusted 339,000, the lowest level in more than four years." "Jobless claims fall to 339,000".

Romney's "extreme makeover"

"President Obama returns to Florida, attacks Romney for 'extreme makeover'".

GOP-controlled Legislature shortened number voting hours and lengthened ballot

Marc Caputo: "A warning to Florida voters: Be prepared to pack plenty of patience at the polls."

In what amounted to a dry run for early voting and Election Day, President Barack Obama's campaign encouraged supporters Wednesday to cast mail-in ballots in person at elections offices throughout Florida, where voters said people need to do their homework and to be prepared for a long stay because of lengthy ballots.

It took some voters an hour to cast their ballots Wednesday morning in Miami-Dade. In St. Petersburg and in Tampa, there was no wait in the afternoon.

Many more Floridians — 76,000 and counting — are voting from the comfort of their own homes by mailing in absentee ballots. Republicans hold a small edge.

Democrats have historically waited until the start of in-person early voting before they cast their ballots.

But the GOP-controlled Legislature shortened the number of in-person early voting hours compared with 2008's. It also lengthened the ballot with 11 proposed constitutional amendments printed in full for the first time ever.

"In trial run, voters learn that long ballots could mean long waits".

Registration surge

Jeremy Wallace: "Even before the voter registration deadline hit Wednesday for the Nov. 6 election, Sarasota County was seeing a big surge in new voters over the last three months. Since July, Sarasota’s registered voters have jumped from 270,287 to 275,625. That is nearly a 2 percent increase in the total number of voters in three months." "Sarasota County adds 5,000 voters in 3 months".

Wrong number

Frank Cerabino: "Gov. Scott makes the meningitis hotline even hotter".