Sunday, October 21, 2012

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

"Subtle shift in presidential campaigns’ approach to Florida"

Jeremy Wallace: "Unquestionably, Florida has been at the center of the 2012 presidential campaign."

The state hosted the Republican National Convention and Monday’s presidential debate will take place in Boca Raton. And each week since early August, it has been visited by at least one of the presidential campaigns.

Strategically, however, there is a subtle shift in the campaigns’ approach to Florida down the homestretch that may preclude a repeat of 2008, when Barack Obama and John McCain came to Sarasota in the final weeks before Election Day.

While Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney certainly want to win Florida, the state is far more critical to Romney than to Obama.

"Obama and Romney in fight for Florida".

"Sorry, Florida. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney may be ardently courting America's biggest battleground state, but their real passion is for Ohio. Because as un-American as it sounds, all votes are not created equal in a presidential election. Don't be offended. With barely two weeks before Nov. 6, it's all about the electoral math. And as uncertain and unpredictable as the campaign looks heading into the final stretch, Ohio remains President Obama's best opportunity to block a Romney win — and Romney's biggest hurdle."

That's why in the past week, four of the top 10 TV markets for campaign ads were in Ohio, and only one was in Florida (Orlando), according to NBC. That's why, since September, Romney and Paul Ryan have done 34 Ohio campaign events and 20 Florida events, while Obama and Joe Biden have done 11 campaign events in Florida and 18 in Ohio.

"If you take Ohio off the board for the Romney campaign they basically have to win seven of the remaining eight battleground states," said Robert Gibbs, a senior Obama campaign adviser.

"Eight states hold key to White House".

"If a fourth-grade teacher was moderating"

Carl Hiaasen explains how it would go down "If a fourth-grade teacher was moderating the final presidential debate". "Teacher would show ’em how to run a debate".

Are these editorials even worth the paper they're written on?

This was no surprise last week from the Orlando Sentinel: "Our pick for president: Romney".

Editorials from the Orlando Sentinel, especially as they relate to political issues, need to be taken with one big right-wing grain of salt.

It is no secret that Sam Zell, the "easily provoked" Republican, and Chicago based slum lord who controls the Tribune Company (which owns the Orlando Sentinel and SoFla's Sun Sentinel), uses his newspapers as his personal soap box.

And Zell's putative employees employees know full well who butters their bread ("Sam Zell Says ‘Fuck You’ To His [Orlando Sentinel] Journalist"). See generally "Sam Zell Goes On Legendary Tirade About Class Warfare" and "Sam Zell, Asshole, Leaving Tribune, After Destroying It".

The poor "journalists" and "editors" working for Zell may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire, as legendary wingnut Rupert Murdoch may end up as their next owner.

In another relatively early endorsement, The Saint Petersburg Times editors believe "Obama has earned second term", but their evil twins on The Tampa Tribune editorial board predictably think otherwise: "Mitt Romney for president".

"The McGillicuddy three-wheeler political machine"

Daniel Ruth: "In an evening filled with out-of-body, parallel universe political piffle, perhaps nothing summed up the sheer Baghdad Bob denial of reality more than Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack wishing he could have more debates with incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson."

Go ahead and slap your forehead. Everyone else already has.

After all, Mack, R-The Invisible Man, has been ducking debates, first with his Republican primary opponents and now Nelson, as if he were being chased around by a process server.

Really now. Mack has been so wary of finding himself in the same area code with any opponents and defending his thin record he probably refuses to tell waiters what he wants to order for fear of taking a position on whole wheat or rye.

How much of a black hole meets a vow of omerta has been Mack? Right about now the McGillicuddy three-wheeler political machine makes former Sen. George LeMieux, who never met a back he didn't want to stab, look like Henry Clay.

"Still, there was Mack, whose only real experience in debating seems to be limited to depositions, Wednesday night on the same stage with Nelson pretending he just loves the give and take of political discourse as if he were channeling William F. Buckley."
To be fair, you have to have a certain empathy for Mack, R-Who Am I and Why Am I Here?, whose witness protection attendance record at debates is only rivaled by his attendance record at his day job as a U.S. congressman.

When your entire raison d'etre for claiming to be qualified to sit in the U.S. Senate is grounded in DNA and the family tree, it's awkward to run around the state holding up a poster of your double helix as a campaign prop.

"In debate, Invisible Man versus Sen. Spacesuit".

A coordinated campaign by tea party groups and state GOP to open up three judicial seats for tea party Gov. Scott

Myriam Marquez: "The Bill of Rights was created to counter what our Founding Fathers called the 'tyranny of the majority.' But in Florida, there’s the tyranny of the minority, too, scorching a pants-on-fire path to the Supreme Court, trying to make a cockamamie case that three justices are unfit to be retained by voters. Pumped up by its control of the governor’s office, the cabinet and the state Legislature, the Republican Party of Florida now is going after the three state justices who are up for retention by voters on Nov. 6: R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince."

Predictably, Florida’s GOP chief, Lenny Curry, calls the criticism “nonsense. The charge of injecting politics into what is already an issue before the voters is nonsense of the highest order.”

Curry points to the justices raising $1 million in their defense, which is diabolically funny since the only reason groups defending the justices have been forced to raise the big bucks is to battle a coordinated campaign by tea party groups and now the state GOP to oust them and open up three judicial seats for tea party Gov. Rick Scott.

Rich in irony, considering that Scott won without capturing the majority of the vote, but simply a plurality.

"Florida justices fighting against tyranny of the minority".

The spats and ascot crowd

Kingsley Guy: "Trickle down economics really work".

"How bad is Florida's political corruption?"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board asks: "How bad is Florida's political corruption? So bad that Louisiana is being held up by comparison as an example of good government." "Florida's sad state of ethics".

"Every vote doesn't count"

Tom Lyons reminds us that some folks ignore the absentee ballot envelope that has a red arrow "pointing to a spot for a signature. Instructions say 'Voter must sign & date." If the absentee ballot voters don't do that, it will not be opened and counted.

That mistake used to be fixable. But now, though the election is more than two weeks away, there is no lawful way to fix the error, thanks to a law passed several years ago. Since 2004, it has been illegal to correct the mistake by coming in to sign, nor can voters have the ballot thrown away so they can vote at a polling place.
"In voided ballots, proof that every vote doesn't count".

Teabagger-GOPers outraged

"Court halts execution of John Ferguson".

"Impact of Florida on national politics"

"The 'Today' show with Lester Holt, is broadcasting today from Plant Hall's East Verandah University at the Tampa campus in a special show on the impact of Florida on national politics. One of Holt's first interviews was former Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched parties and is supporting President Barack Obama in his re-election bid, praised what Obama had been able to accomplish despite the situation he inherited, and how the president was able to help Floridians." "NBC's 'Today' talks with Crist about Florida politics".

Obama hater sends more than a million conspiracy-laden DVDs to swing state voters

"A conservative, California-based filmmaker said this week that his company is distributing more than a million free copies of a conspiracy-laden DVD that claims much of what the public knows about President Barack Obama's early life is false. The movie — called 'Dreams From My Real Father' — began appearing in Central Florida mailboxes sometime last week."

It is the work of Joel Gilbert, a director whose other movies have focused on everything from militant Islam to Bob Dylan to Elvis Presley. He said the DVD is being sent to swing states, including Florida and Ohio, but would not say who is financing the project or how much the distribution costs.

Gilbert's central — and widely denounced — claim is that Obama's father was not a Kenyan named Barack Obama but a black poet and journalist named Frank Marshall Davis. Marshall was a labor activist investigated in the 1940s and 1950s for ties to the American Communist Party.

Gilbert contends Davis and Ann Dunham — the president's mother — had a secret relationship when they were living in Hawaii, and that Dunham's family covered it up when she became pregnant.

Ultimately, Gilbert alleges, Obama discovered who his "true" father was. The men developed a relationship, Gilbert said, and the president's "biological father" became his "ideological father."

"Anti-Obama DVD floods local mailboxes". See also "Dreams from director" ("Gilbert has made films suggesting Elvis is alive and Paul McCartney is dead.")

"One and Done?"

Nancy Smith wonders, "Is David Rivera 'One and Done?'".

Smith won't run for governor

"Scratch one name off the list of potential Democratic candidates for governor in 2014: Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith."

Other prospective Democratic challengers to Gov. Rick Scott include Alex Sink; state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston; Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales.

And there's the chance former Gov. Charlie Crist will run as a Democrat.

"Florida Democrat chairman Rod Smith won't run for governor".

Absentee ballot signatures

"Court rules for Clemens; Bernard concedes in state Senate District 27 race". Background: "The legal dispute basically boils down to how [circuit court judge Terry] Lewis should have construed section 102.168(8) of the Florida statutes. The law states that when the 'legality' of an absentee ballot is in dispute because of a perceived discrepancy between signatures, a circuit court judge may not consider any other evidence beyond visual comparison of the two signatures."

Bernard’s lawyer, former Republican state Rep. J.C. Planas, insists that this statute, enacted by the Legislature in 2011, was only meant to apply to those cases where a ballot is challenged after its validity has been accepted by elections officials; in those cases where a ballot has not been accepted, but a party is arguing it should be, Planas says the judge is allowed to consider other evidence.

Bernard’s legal pleadings cite, in support of this position, the text of an amendment rejected by the 2011 Legislature. The rejected amendment explicitly applied the more restrictive standard of judicial ballot review to absentee ballots rejected by elections officials. Planas says this rejection signaled the intent of the Legislature to make it easier for votes to be counted, and more difficult for them to be rejected.

Lewis rejected that argument, declaring that the same standard of review had to be applied to any ballot whose signatures did not match. Lewis declined to count the contested absentee ballots in Bernard's favor, after finding that a "reasonable person" could find that the signatures on these ballots did not match those on file with the elections office.

The judges Thursday seemed likely to uphold that ruling.

"Primary Defeat Appeal Not Looking Good for Democratic Rep. Mack Bernard".

Ann Romney in Orlando

"Ann Romney to walk in breast cancer 5K in Orlando". Meanwhile, "Romney in Daytona: We have 'big ideas'". See also "Politics kicks into high gear as Romney, Ryan visit Biketoberfest in Daytona".

Webster and Demings spar

"U.S. Rep. Dan Webster and former police chief Val Demings sparred over negative campaign ads Friday at their first and only debate in the battle for Florida's 10th Congressional District." "Dan Webster, Val Demings spar over attack ads, jobs".

Funny how that works

"Eleven constitutional amendments appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot were all placed there by the Florida Legislature. But legislative watchdogs say another lesser-known group may have had a significant role in getting them before voters, too — a quiet, corporate-backed nonprofit that creates conservative and business-friendly model legislation for state lawmakers. Critics suggest several of the high-profile amendments Floridians will consider may have come directly from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or at least from its playbook." "Some amendments tied to business-backed group".

"How about a nice ambassadorship in Barbados?"

"The Barack Obama campaign last week released an updated list of its top campaign donation bundlers. Among them? Former Republican Gov. Crist, who raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president's re-election campaign. . . . Maybe a governor's race isn't the next step for Crist, still registered independent. How about a nice ambassadorship in Barbados?" "A new spot for Crist?"

Biden on International Drive

"Vice President Joe Biden and his daughter, Ashley, made a campaign stop Friday at a Dairy Queen on International Drive in Orlando, where he treated a customer to ice cream and chatted with an 8-year-old girl." "VP Biden's campaign takes an ice-cream break at Orlando Dairy Queen".

"Ku Klux Klan met its match"

"Ku Klux Klan met its match in Putnam County in the 1920s".

"Campaign theft is sign of the times"

Fabiola Santiago: "Campaign theft is sign of the times".

"West Fights for His Political Life"

"In one of the most heated congressional races in a state filled with contentious contests, with millions spent on airing negative ads that voters say won’t sway their view, the battle between conservative firebrand Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Democratic upstart Patrick Murphy remains tight." "In the Middle of a Tick-Tight Race ... Allen West Fights for His Political Life". See also "Allen West, Patrick Murphy spar over taxes, health care in televised debate".

Deutch walks

"Deutch has no Republican opponent November 6. Two independents, Cesar Henao of Greenacres and Mike Trout of West Boca Raton, are challenging him, but Deutch is expected to win easily in the heavily Democratic district." "ELECTION 2012: CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 21".

"Did Justices Up for Retention Invent New Workers' Compensation Law Out of Thin Air?"

Sunshine State News: "Did Justices Up for Retention Invent New Workers' Compensation Law Out of Thin Air?".

"Conservative Florida Senate needs more experienced, reasonable voices"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Conservative Florida Senate needs more experienced, reasonable voices who focus more on Florida’s long-term needs than short-term political gains." "Independent voices for Florida Senate".