Thursday, November 15, 2012

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

Florida "laughingstock of the nation"

"State Rep. Darryl Rouson, joined by a handful of other Democrats, as well as former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, announced Wednesday he will submit a bill to expand early voting in response to long lines and delays in Florida's vote counting during last week's election. 'Florida was the laughingstock of the nation again this year when it came to voting,' Rouson said." "Pushing for voting reforms".

"Florida's Nov. 6 election fiasco is generating political fallout that appears likely to dominate the coming state legislative session and possibly affect the 2014 election." "Critics are latching on to state's election problems". More: "Will Weatherford: Florida ‘Should be Embarrassed’ by Latest Election Fiasco". See also "State representative wants early voting expanded".

Doesn't this make you feel better: "Rick Scott: Ken Detzner Directed to Restore Voter ‘Confidence’".

Another Florida embarrassment

"Florida among 7 states that qualify for secession response".

West makes up the rules as he goes

"A St. Lucie County circuit judge has scheduled a two-hour hearing for Friday on Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West’s request for a recount of all 37,379 ballots cast during early voting in St. Lucie County in his tight reelection fight against Democrat Patrick Murphy." "Hearing set over recount in Allen West-Patrick Murphy race". Background: "State to help probe 799 missing votes in Allen West race".

Meanwhile, an "election inspection team ordered by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is on the ground in Fort Pierce as the city mayor’s contest has spawned the second lawsuit that questions the general election results in St. Lucie County." "Gayle Harrell: St. Lucie County Elections ‘A Disaster’". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Recount early votes in Patrick Murphy-Allen West race". Frank Cerabino: St. Lucie County should recount all of its ballots, and let the West-Murphy votes fall where they may

Florida leads in foreclosures

"Florida keeps top foreclosure ranking".

"Train service from Miami to Orlando"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "All Aboard Florida, the proposed passenger rail service from Miami to Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, promises to add a new dimension to downtown Miami’s vitality. Florida East Coast Industries, the company that began as Henry Flagler’s railroad, has big plans to connect two major tourist destinations as early as 2014." "FEC All Aboard Florida to offer exciting train service from Miami to Orlando".

GOPers "behind the demographic curve"

"The Republican Party finds itself not only behind the demographic curve but out of step on issues gaining national acceptance, like same-sex marriage and immigration reform." "Weak showing among minorities has Republicans rethinking strategy". See also "Poll: Obama got big share of Cuban-American vote, won among other Florida Hispanics".

"Florida’s butterfly effect"

"Voter suppression and Florida’s butterfly effect".

"Ladies of the evening as competition"

"Delmar Johnson, a former GOP official who is testifying against Greer in return for immunity from prosecution, said he believed prostitutes were part of a mens only party in the Bahamas." "New allegations surface in case against Jim Greer". Daniel Ruth: "It is known that then-Gov. Crist was in attendance, as was Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard and GOP finance chairman Harry Sargeant."

As for the identities of the rest of those receiving thanks, well that's become a bit problematic. The guest list has been sealed by lawyers who have argued their clients could be damaged if their names were revealed.

Why is that?

If Delmar Johnson is wrong, if he somehow misread a convention of Minnesota librarians as golf carts full of harlots, then why the shyness in admitting one might have accepted the Republican Party of Florida invitation to come to the Bahamas to be thanked?

Surely, especially if there really were no concubines in golf carts anywhere in sight, the GOP dignitaries wiled away their hours playing canasta on the veranda and engaging in endlessly fascinating discussions about Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.

Naughty women notwithstanding, the entire Greer saga and its ripple effects upon Republicans could have been largely avoided if only the state party leaders had simply eased the former chairman out of office and then shut up.

Perhaps Greer is guilty of the crimes he is charged with. But it hardly seems worth the trouble to alienate someone who probably knows where more political skeletons are buried than Pol Pot.

It's just a gut feeling, but it's probable Delmar Johnson may just be dead wrong about all those hookers in golf carts. Considering how Tallahassee is already so beholden to deep-pocketed special interests, it's more likely the Republicans viewed any ladies of the evening as competition.

"GOP money scandal gets spicing of sleaze".

Weatherford flip flops

"In the wake of another big spending election, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford said Tuesday he wants to limit the dollars that flow into murky political spending committees run by leading Florida lawmakers."

The Wesley Chapel Republican, who will take over leadership of the House at next week’s organizational session of the Legislature, acknowledged that committees he and dozens of legislators have established raise and spend millions of dollars in unlimited contributions from Florida’s biggest industries. Weatherford raised more than $2 million for his Committee for a Conservative House, which he used to help elect favored candidates and for related expenses.
"Florida House speaker would limit group contributions but raise limit for individuals". See also "Legislative Leaders Say They'll Bite the Hand That Fed Them".

"Florida leaders need to face reality"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Just a week after an election that checked the Republican dominance in a decidedly purple state, two Florida politicians have signaled change in Tallahassee. On both the Affordable Health Care Act and campaign finance reform, there's reason for optimism."

After playing a role for years as one of the staunchest critics of the health care reform, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday told the Associated Press that he is dropping his strident opposition to Obamacare and is willing to engage in a conversation with Washington to implement the plan's required health insurance exchanges in Florida. Finally.

Scott read the electoral tea leaves, as have incoming legislative leaders Rep. Will Weatherford and Sen. Don Gaetz. They have been signaling for months a willingness to consider implementing the law, given the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding most of it and President Barack Obama's possible re-election. Floridians will be best served if they can access a state-run exchange, versus a federally run one, to obtain the mandated insurance coverage.

Now Scott, Weatherford and Gaetz also need to agree to accept the Medicaid provisions under the plan that would open the door for up to 2 million more uninsured, low-income Floridians to get coverage. The federal government would pick up 100 percent of the costs for the first three years and 90 percent of the costs thereafter. That's a good deal for Florida and its families.

"Sounds of progress from Tallahassee".

The Tampa Tribune editorial board write that, "with Obama winning a second term and the Democrats maintaining control of the U.S. Senate in last week's elections, coupled with the Supreme Court upholding the law's constitutionality, Florida leaders need to face reality."

Obamacare, and its personal health insurance mandate, now is cemented in U.S. law, at least for the foreseeable future. It would be foolish to think the law is going away.

Instead, Gov. Rick Scott, lawmakers and other state officials need to take thoughtful steps to implement the law and negotiate with the federal government for the best deal for Florida taxpayers and families.

"Like it or not, accept Obamacare".

Revenge of the Nones

"'Nones' — the religiously unaffiliated . . . are to the Democratic Party what evangelicals are to Republicans."

"Both groups are substantial in size, and they both matter a lot," said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. In 2012, the "nones" were roughly the same size as white evangelicals. Both represent 19 percent of the American population.

Florida reflected the national trends as well, said Ken Wald, a political-science professor at the University of Florida. Evangelicals came out strongly for Romney, while the "nones" voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

"There's no reason to think Florida differed in any significant way from the national vote in the sense that both those groups are important constituencies," Wald said.

But the numbers of white, born-again evangelicals have declined from 21 percent in 2007, while the religiously unaffiliated have increased from 15 percent.

"The trends are moving in opposite directions. It's something the religious leaders should be very concerned about," said Dan Nejfelt, an editor with Faith and Public Life, a left-leaning faith-based organization.

Not so fast, say experts from the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals turned out for Romney in greater numbers this election than they did for John McCain in 2008 and at the same level — 79 percent — as for George Bush in 2004.

But though the evangelicals came out for Romney as they had for Bush, there was none of the enthusiasm of 2004, when conservative Christians turned the election into a moral crusade for social values, said Phillip Lucas, professor of religious studies at Stetson University in DeLand.

"That might have made a difference in Florida, where Obama won narrowly in overtime, Lucas said."
"I think a lot of evangelicals in key swing states, including Florida, said, 'I can't support either of these guys,'" he said.

At the same time, the religiously unaffiliated's support for Obama dropped from 75 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2012. Moreover, the "nones" might represent one in five Americans but only one in eight voters. Despite their growth in numbers, their percentage of the electorate remains where it was in 2008 at 12 percent.

"They are punching well below their weight," Cooperman said.

But in an election as close in popular vote as the 2012 election, even small shifts in voter turnout can make a difference. When it comes to evangelicals versus the religiously unaffiliated, the only significant difference between 2004 and 2012 is who won, said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

"'Nones,' evangelicals played similar roles in election 2012".

"F--- Obama!"

"A Key West man who told his partner that "if Barack gets re-elected, I'm not going to be around" was found dead on Nov. 8, with the words 'F--- Obama!' scrawled on his will and two empty prescription bottles nearby." "Death of Key West man linked to Obama's reelection".