Thursday, October 16, 2014

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

"The debate was over before it started"

"The live televised debate between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist got off to one of the most bizarre starts in political history Wednesday night when Scott initially refused to take the stage because of a fan. Yes, a fan."

The governor said Crist was in violation of debate rules prohibiting electronic devices by placing a small fan underneath his lecturn. Debate moderators initially said Scott had decided he would not appear in the debate at all because of the rules violation.

Some in the crowd at Broward College hooted and booed at the announcement.

Crist was bemused, saying, "That's the ultimate plead of the 5th (amendment) I've heard in my life."

"Rick Scott, Charlie Crist debate gets off to bizarre start over rogue fan."

See also "PolitFact Florida reviews debate beyond ‘fangate’," "'Fangate' delays start of Rick Scott, Charlie Crist debate," "Mayo: Forget issues, Crist-Scott now all about the fan," "Florida governor debate reflects nasty campaign" and "‘Fan’ dispute overshadows sharp debate between Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott."

This from the reliably conservative Kevin Derby: "The debate was over before it started."

When Gov. Rick Scott didn't immediately come out on stage in Wednesday night’s debate against former Gov. Charlie Crist at Broward College due to concerns about the Democrat using his ubiquitous fan, the governor lost the debate right off the bat. The Crist team quickly took to Twitter, insisting under the agreed-upon rules their candidate was allowed to have his fan.

Crist’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent out emails before the debate was over, mocking Scott’s decision. . . .

With his momentary protest over the fan, Scott lost control of the narrative of Wednesday night’s debate, no matter what he said about education, the Second Amendment or the economy. Scott’s handlers seriously hurt their candidate in what is shaping up as a close contest -- over a fan. This was a major unforced error by the Scott team.

"The Senseless Scott Meltdown Over Crist's Fan."

See also "Fangate Flap Stirs a Chill Wind in Charlie Crist-Rick Scott Debate" and "Top 10 Tweets from Rick Scott-Charlie Crist Debate."

"Communications breakdown"

"A communications breakdown between state and county elections officials looks like it will cost more than $13,000 in unanticipated expenses that will be picked up by Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott out of her taxpayer-funded budget."

The glitch was the result of Kourtney Ann Waldron, a write-in candidate for Florida House in District 53, dropping out of the race last month.

Waldron on Sept. 11 notified the Florida Department of State's Division of Elections of her decision to withdraw.

But the state did not pass the information on to Scott's office before ballots were printed a week later. So the local ballots, including absentee ballots, included a line for a write-in candidate in the District 53 race.

"State's write-in glitch costs Brevard $13,000 to fix."

Will the South save the Dems?

The Miami Herald editors: "Could the South save the Democrats?."

"How journalism in the capital of the fourth-largest state in America ends"

Adam Weinstein: "The capital of Florida used to have a good newspaper, I’m told. It’s hard to know, because by the time I started working there — 2006 — Knight Ridder had sold the Tallahassee Democrat to Gannett, the cigarette-perfumed, drunken used-car salesman of media corporations, and the paper was a ghost of itself."

There was always a handful of talented, dedicated writers and reporters who dodged each successive set of layoffs and furloughs and dumbing-downs of stories (which came to be called “content,” in the newsroom, which came to be called the “information center”). But their number was constantly shrinking.

Three or four of those good people, but no more, even survived the latest and worst bloodbath: On Tuesday, cost-conscious Gannett ensured its profit margins with stealth layoffs. It had made the existing staff compete for a limited number of new jobs with Orwellian titles (“content coach”?) and sent the rest packing.

This is how journalism in the capital of the fourth-largest state in America ends: in a corporate game of musical chairs. But the story of the Democrat’s decomposition is a deeper cautionary tale on how monopoly media can turn a vibrant, growing community into a cloistered cultural backwater.

As I’ve suggested before, if you’re jonesing for the Seminole Boosters party line, Comcast cheerleading, godawful grammar, action shots of the Florida State cowgirl’s cleavage, or good birdcage lining, you’ll love the Tallahassee Democrat.

If you have enough brain cells to rub together, you won’t love it — and for that, you should blame the musical-chairs maestro: Executive Editor Bob Gabordi, who carpetbagged into town in 2005 and set about turning a once-mighty community and state news organization into a clearinghouse for deep-pocketed flacks and hacks.

"Bloodbath at Deteriorating Tallahassee Democrat Is Newspapers’ Latest For-Profit Suicide."

Scott's Lt. Gov. family profited from statehouse campaign

"Relatives of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera formed a political consulting business and collected a total of $37,500 in 2008 and 2010 from his campaign for the statehouse — and it was perfectly legal." "Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s relatives profited from his statehouse campaign."

If only the rules allowed

The Miami Herald editors: "Debates may help voters decide which gubernatorial candidate to vote for, instead of against — if the rules allow." "Scott/Crist debate could clarify issues for voters, if rules allow."

Another Herald editorial: "A classical guide to debate."

Crist holds a consistent, but very slight edge

SurveyUSA 10/14/2014 poll: "Charlie Crist is 4 points in front of Rick Scott, according to WFLA-TV's weekly tracking poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Crist today gets 45%, Scott 41%. On 09/30/14, Crist led by 6 points. On 10/07/14, Crist led by 2 points. Today, Crist leads by 4 points. In 8 tracking polls going back to August 2014, Scott has led 4 times, Crist has led 4 times. Week-on-week, favorable and unfavorable opinions of the two candidates are unchanged." "For 3rd Consecutive Week, Democrat Crist Atop Incumbent Republican Scott in Florida Governor's Contest."

Real Clear Politics' poll average: "Crist has bounced back in recent polling, and now holds a [very] slight edge in the RCP Average." "Florida Governor - Scott vs. Crist." See also Huffington Post's poll average: "2014 Florida Governor: Scott vs. Crist" and "Rick Scott and Charlie Crist Locked in the Polls."

An outlier from a reliably FlaGOP poll: "Gravis Poll: Scott up 2."

"Into the full light of day"

Nancy Smith: "The Florida Press Association's questionable alliances were bound to catch up with this once-venerable, 134-year-old organization. I knew it would happen -- just not quite so soon. It took Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie to connect the dots and flush them into the full light of day -- something none of the rest of us in the press apparently had the guts to do, even though we all could see what's been happening." "Not Your Father's Florida Press Association."

"What the ads don't say"

"Gov. Rick Scott and fellow Republicans are spending millions of dollars on TV ads attacking Democratic challenger Charlie Crist for raising taxes and fees by $2.2 billion when he was governor, letting state universities raise tuition by up to 15 percent each year and allowing a power company to charge customers billions for a nuclear plant it will never build. What the ads don't say is that Scott's very own running mate, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and other top Republicans voted for all those same policies." "Florida Gov. Scott Blasts Rival Crist With TV Ads" ("The probability that Crist will beat Scott is 50.8%.")

Debate centers on ethics

"Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo bickered over ethics and highlighted their differences over Obamacare, the minimum wage and Cuba." "Debate between Miami congressional candidates centers on ethics."

"Republicans are hoping"

Jeff Henderson: "Karen Castor Dentel may come from one of the most prominent Democratic families in Florida but that might not be enough to help her win a second term in the Florida House. Castor Dentel beat Scott Plakon in 2012 but that Republican had moved over from his Seminole County base to HD 30 in order to help Chris Dorworth. Republicans are hoping they can grasp this seat back as Bob Cortes runs against Castor Dentel in November." "HD 30: Can Bob Cortes Overcome Karen Castor Dentel's Name and Cash Advantages?."

"Taxpayers are subsidizing low turnouts"

"Taxpayers are subsidizing low turnouts with spring elections."


"U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., sent a letter to Obama and members of his administration on Tuesday, asking what they plan to do to combat Ebola. Besides Obama, Rooney also wrote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and CDC Director Tom Frieden on the matter. Rooney ripped Obama’s handling of Ebola and the current crisis in the Middle East and called for Congress to return to Washington to tackle the matters." "Florida Officials Continue to Push Obama on Ebola Readiness."

First lady in Orlando

"First lady to headline Charlie Crist rally."

"Calmer Tone"

"The candidates in one of the nation's most-watched congressional races toned down the rhetoric in their second and final debate Wednesday, as Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland and Democratic challenger Gwen Graham found some common ground." "Debate Brings Calmer Tone to Southerland-Graham Race."

Why is Bucher contracting with a right-wing publisher?

"Two years after Bucher's office sent out judicial-rentention questions without section headings on absentee ballots in 423 of the county's 842 precincts, history repeated itelf ... well ... sort of."

New sample ballots will be in the mail by the end of the week to some 740,000 Palm Beach County voters after another printing company error went undiscovered. . . .

A watermark identifying the ballots as samples was so dark it blocked some text on the ballots and rendered some candidate names and other words illegible. The bad batch went out to every registered Palm Beach County voter who didn't sign up to vote absentee.

The story was reported in the Sun Sentinel, whose parent company -- [the conservative] Tribune Publishing -- also owns Tribune Direct, the vendor Bucher hired to print the sample ballots.

"Another Election Year, Another Susan Bucher Ballot Screw-Up."