Saturday, February 13, 2016

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

"Jeb gasping his way into South Carolina"

Daniel Ruth writes about "Jeb gasping his way into South Carolina — still, incredibly, alive. The Bush campaign has become The Revenant of the campaign trail."

How many presidential candidates need to campaign with a mirror under their nose to remind voters they're still breathing? But thanks to a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire just behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Back-Stabbers, Bush grabbed a ticket to South Carolina, even if he had to hitchhike halfway down I-95.

Finishing in fourth place behind one of the most loathed human beings in the U.S. Senate may not exactly be a mandate. But at least Bush managed to finish ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Groundhog Day. That offered some small comfort. While Cruz may be the Senate's answer to Lonesome Rhodes without the whimsy, Rubio is that little boy in grade school who tattled on everyone.

South Carolina offers an opportunity for Bush to finally live up to his self-image as a top-tier candidate. You can't keep finishing back in the pack and insisting you're a political juggernaut. It's a presidential campaign, not a T-ball league where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.

If you can't make a convincing case you are a sequoia of presidential timber compared to an insulting Howdy Doody of demagoguery, a Lone Star state Joe McCarthy lite and the Buster Brown of the Senate, you don't deserve to be elected president of your homeowners association.

"While Ohio Gov. John Kasich got a nice bump coming out of New Hampshire with a second-place finish to Donald Trump, the circus peanut of the stump, South Carolina would seem to set up well for Bush."
The former governor has received the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. And let us not forget how well Jeb's big brother, George W., did in winning the 2000 Palmetto State primary after a rather effective smear campaign against John McCain, suggesting the senator had fathered a black child and, oh yeah, was crazy. Declasse? Sure. But it worked.
"Jeb Bush stays alive in South Carolina."

Trump packs Sun Dome

"Billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump delighted more than 10,000 fans Friday night, savaging President Barack Obama, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is trailing Trump badly in state polls." "Capacity crowd at Sun Dome picks up Trump call to 'win again'." See also "Donald Trump rally draws more than 10,000 in Tampa." Meanwhile, "Rubio under pressure as GOP candidates prepare for S.C. debate."

Heaven help us

The Tampa Trib' Joe Henderson: "Florida Senate assumes the role as adult in the room."

"Bush Campaign Weaves Tale"

"If you were to ask Jeb Bush’s campaign team where they view Marco Rubio in terms of competitiveness, they’d likely say U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is performing worse than Bush is."

But contrary to the Bush campaign’s story, numbers -- both in polls and primary voters -- show the two Floridians are colliding at roughly the same strength. A new poll released Friday even shows that Rubio might actually be ahead of Bush, and not by less than half a point.

An Augusta Chronicle, Morris News Service and Fox 5 Atlanta-sponsored poll released this week found nearly 15 percent of likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina would vote for Rubio in the primary while a smaller percentage -- almost 11 percent -- would cast their vote for Bush.

"Bush Campaign Weaves Tale of Large Lead Against Rubio, but Numbers Suggest Otherwise."

Charter Madness

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Keep charter approval with local school boards."

All districts above average?

"Florida Department of Education Releases 2015 School Grades." More: "School grades released: Hillsborough gets an ‘A’."

"Tallahassee prepares to be overrun with budget battles"

"The House and Senate budget proposals, both passed Thursday, sit roughly $1 billion apart in overall spending, but that might not be the biggest differences between the two chambers as Tallahassee prepares to be overrun with budget battles." "Budget votes underscore different styles in House, Senate."

"We're all doing it wrong"

Beth Kassab: "When it comes to elections, we're all doing it wrong." "Elections: You're doing it wrong."

"Scott has put all of his chips on the table"

Tim Nickens: "The poker game using your tax money is about to get serious in Tallahassee, and you could be the big loser."

Gov. Rick Scott has put all of his chips on the table. He wants $1 billion in tax cuts that primarily benefit businesses and $250 million for a slush fund for a flawed job incentives program. He wants to spend more on public schools, but he wants to do it largely on the backs of local property taxpayers.
"Legislature plays poker with your money."

Establishment coming down on Grayson like a ton of bricks

"Reid calls on Grayson to drop out of Senate race."

"Double down on duh"

Scott Maxwell: "It's impressive that Florida generated two finalists in the presidential race. It's less impressive that Florida also generated the following two headlines the same week: 'Florida man charged with throwing alligator into Wendy's' and 'Florida Man Loses Car Keys, Locks Himself in Trunk While Looking for Them.'"

•Evaluation-Duh. Something sure stinks in Orange County's school-teacher ratings. Last year, the county rated 80 percent of its teachers "highly effective." This year, it's 2 percent. The Hindenburg experienced a less-violent drop. The district offers a lot of jargon-ladled explanations and notes that the teachers union was involved in the grading system. But if Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and School Board Chairman Bill Sublette really believe that only 2 percent of their teachers are top-notch, they should be ashamed of their workforce. The statewide average is 37 percent. The truth is: I don't really think they do believe that. And neither does anyone else. This is just more proof that, in Florida, education scoring systems — whether for students, schools or teachers — are wildly unreliable. . . .

•Health Duh. Perhaps you've seen that Florida officials are trying to promote the Sunshine State as a destination for "Medical Tourism" — an industry that caters in part to wealthy foreigners looking to get medical services, elective or otherwise. There's some real economic value in this. But there's also a pretty sick dichotomy at play here. Last year, the entire session melted down when the state House refused $50 billion in federal dollars to provide health care for working-class citizens — the people who actually live here. They didn't want that. But they do want to spend millions of those working-class citizens' tax dollars trying to attract wealthy Middle Easterners looking for a tummy tuck.

"Bush, Rubio now in a dogfight."