Sunday, October 11, 2015

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider "Liking" us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Florida GOPers want the old time religion

Carl Hiaasen: "It’s a strange American phenomenon. No matter how low they get in the polls, politicians start becoming more popular the minute they leave office."

Which brings us to . . . Jeb, whose popularity has been creeping in the wrong direction ever since he announced his candidacy for president.

A mind-bending new Quinnipiac University poll shows Jeb running fourth among Republicans in Florida, behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio.

"His entire presidential campaign has been crafted around his self-buffed legacy as Florida’s chief executive, touting it in every stump speech and in every debate. Yet now, only 13 months before election day, he’s mired in fourth place in the one state where it was supposed to be a slam dunk. How is this possible?"
Sure, the former governor didn’t show much fire during the two televised debates. He’s also had some stumbles of his own, including that appalling “stuff happens” remark about the Oregon killings.

But stacked up beside the insult-belching Trump and the spacey Carson, Jeb should be looking like Winston Churchill.

Imagine if you were one of the wealthy donors who wrote a six- or even a seven-figure check to the Bush Super PAC early this year, thinking you were betting on a sure winner. Now you’re looking at the headlines and lunging for the bourbon.

"They love you when you’re gone."

Hiaasen may be over-simplifying things.

According to the Q Poll's Release Detail, "The generally more energized Republican party members, who backed former Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio when they ran for office in the Sunshine State, are deserting the establishment candidates for the outsiders - specifically Trump and Carson." Is Bush being abandoned because he is not an "outdifrt," or is it something else? Recall that Bush is being abandoned by the same Republican party members who recently flocked to the polls to elect Rick Scott, whose extremist politics are no secret.

Perhaps there is a different explanation for Jeb's fall in Florida: that is, if Florida GOPers have a choice, they will go for the bona fide extremist - like Trump or Carson, and Bush or Rubio during their Florida days. Now that Bush and Rubio are trying to re-position themselves as "moderates" to appeal to a national audience (including the MSM), Florida GOPers want none of it; they want the old time religion, not pols who apologize for the occasional parapraxis. Stated plainly, Florida GOPers - at least most of them - will go for the wingnut every time.

This is the Florida we have made

Why is anyone - anyone - surprised at this?

The Tampa Trib editors: "A bill that would allow the 1.4 million people in Florida with concealed firearms permits to openly carry their weapons has cleared a committee and is headed for more debate. Incredibly, the sheriff in Brevard County says he supports the measure, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is considering its support provided the measure is tweaked to protect private businesses." "Bill to allow open carry of firearms would be bad for Florida."

Rubio's Achilles Heel with Hispanics: Cubans receive privileged immigration status

"As Rubio campaigns to become the nation's first Hispanic president, the Republican must try to figure out how to win over the largest swing demographic in the country: Latinos, who lean Democratic and in some cases aren't sure the conservative Rubio is really one of them just because his surname ends in a vowel."

Rubio, like most other politicians, doesn't want to talk about divisions among Hispanics of different descent — even if those contrasts are reflected in public-opinion polls and political consultants devise unique approaches for each group. Candidates seek to unite, not divide. . . .

The differences between Cubans and non-Cubans in the United States aren't just over immigration. Hispanics routinely list their top issues as the economy, education and health care; on all those issues, Cubans tend to be more conservative.

But immigration underscores the split. The United States has given Cubans special immigration status since 1966. That's after Rubio's parents left the island, but the legacy of the Cuban Adjustment Act does not go unnoticed.

"His story resonated with me, but why is it his family can stay here and mine can't?" 26-year-old Erika Castro, who was brought into the United States from Mexico illegally by her parents when she was 3, said Thursday after listening to Rubio in the wealthy Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin. "When you're Cuban you get here and you're basically a citizen. I feel that's something he doesn't understand. He's privileged."

Outside a happy-hour campaign rally at a Cuban restaurant Friday night, immigration activists awaited Rubio with a papier-mâché replica of his face and torso. "We need a path to citizenship!" they yelled. "No huyas, Rubio." Don't run away. . . .

Style may overpower substance, but only to a point, countered Sergio García-Ríos, an assistant professor of government and Latino studies at Cornell University whose research is devoted to Latino identities and voter turnout in the United States. As Hispanic voters have gotten more involved in politics, they have also gotten more sophisticated, picking candidates based not just on their last name or shared history.

"Whether a Cuban-American will be able to win over (non-Cuban) Latinos, the answer is yes. Look at Bob Menendez," García-Ríos said, referring to the Democratic senator from New Jersey. "The problem with Marco Rubio is not that he's Cuban American but that he's endorsed Republican positions that Latinos oppose."

Latinos like the Affordable Care Act, worry about climate change and favor a higher minimum wage. Rubio wants to repeal and replace Obamacare, questions climate-change science and is against a mandated wage hike.

"To become first Latino president, Marco Rubio may have to bridge Hispanic divisions."

Florida's Shame

"Florida lags behind other states in using federal mortgage assistance money to help desperate homeowners facing foreclosure, and Florida has only drawn on half of the $1 billion available, according to a critical report released this week."

The report by the Special Inspector General for Troubled Asset Relief Program said only 22,400 homeowners have been helped by the Hardest Hit Fund in Florida, even though almost 110,000 homeowners have applied to the program. The U.S. Treasury Department had a goal of helping 106,000 Florida homeowners under the Hardest Hit Fund but that target has been reduced to 39,000 households when the program ends in December 2017, the report said.

Of the 19 participating states, Florida had the lowest rate of admission to the program and the highest rate of withdrawn applications. In other states, the average rate of providing assistance to homeowners who applied was almost 50 percent, compared to Florida's 20 percent rate, even though Florida had the nation's highest foreclosure rate as recently as last year, the report said.

"HHF Florida has not been as effective in reaching homeowners as other states," the report said.

The report said federal officials had been too deferential to Florida housing officials, who needed prodding to be more effective. Federal officials tried to get state officials to increase the number of homeowners getting assistance to 750 households a month, the report said, but the federal officials didn't hold state officials to that goal. Florida housing officials also weren't ready for a flood of applications in 2013 and they stopped accepting application for eight months.

"Federal report: Florida lags in disbursing foreclosure aid."

Another fine Floridian

Adam C. Smith identifies the "Loser of the week":

Ben Carson. The retired surgeon and West Palm Beach resident had a busy week of head-scratching interviews, sounding baffled about the debt ceiling and tossing out some doozies about the college massacre in Oregon. "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," he said one day, and the next recalled how he once directed an armed robber to point his gun at a Popeye's restaurant clerk, rather than at Carson.
"Loser of the week".

"And Jeb was supposed to be the smart one?"

Daniel Ruth is on fire in this column: "Do you have an inkling that whatever might be left of Jeb Bush's political ambitions is circling the drain of oblivion when somebody in the former Florida governor's camp comes up with the brilliant idea of schlepping out his big brother to campaign for him?"

About the only thing that might be an even more intensely stupid idea would be to call on Dick Cheney to vouch for Jeb Bush's keen foreign policy acumen.

But with Jeb's polling numbers gasping for air somewhere between Hardy-Har-Har and "You are … ?", Bush campaign apparatchiks floated the notion of enlisting George W. Bush to hit the hustings in South Carolina to help out his foundering sibling. Cue the forehead slap.

I have a theory that successful politicians have what I would define as a resident moron guy as part of the inner circle of confidants who — regardless of title — has the freedom to take the boss aside at any given time and inform him that he is a complete horse's patootie.

Abraham Lincoln had an entire Cabinet of moron guys. Franklin Roosevelt had Louie Howe and Harry Hopkins to remind him he had just done, or was about to do, something loopy. Poppy had James Baker. In the first term, at least Barack Obama had Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod.

And Jeb? Mirrors don't count.

If Jeb had put a greater emphasis on surrounding himself with an able moron guy, instead of gamboling around the country posing for holy pictures, the specter of W. smirking and shrugging his way across South Carolina would have been quickly dismissed as one of the worst political gambits since Gerald Ford jaw-droppingly insisted at the height of the Cold War that Poland was not under Soviet domination.

"Talk about fear and loathing on the campaign trail. What would make you believe that having a former president who led the nation into a phony Iraq war resulting in nearly 4,500 American deaths and more than 32,000 casualties all the while slouching the country to the brink of the worst economic depression since 1929 would be a big boost to the younger brother's campaign?"
Since he entered the race to pursue the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, in an effort to tamp down the impression of a Bush presidential dynasty, not to mention his brother's abject failings, Jeb offered up the jibber-jabber no one really believed anyway that he was going to be his own man on the hustings. His own 62-year-old man?

And Jeb was supposed to be the smart one? Oh dear.

If Jeb Bush had a moron guy in his organization, he would have been told bringing Mr. "Mission Accomplished" anywhere near the campaign will: (a) only underscore the whole "presidency as the family business" thing and (b) once more remind voters of the gormless towel-snapper who sat in the Oval Office for eight years while Baghdad burned and the economy imploded. . . .

Dredging up the hapless W. isn't a political ploy. It's a de facto concession speech.

Just read it: "W. to the rescue?"