Kendrick Meek sent out one of those "thank you for your support" emails this morning to his contributors, which contained the not surprising news that he has raised more than $3 million so far this year. With no real opposition, the question is whether a sense of urgency will grip Democrats not already enamored of the campaign's self-described "movement." In short, are softer potential supporters scared enough of Charlie Crist to keep digging deep during a recession?
Look for the July 12 campaign reports to be .... well ... interesting. Both Meek and Crist will report raising more than $3 mil -- Meek pulled in $1.8 million in the first quarter and $1.2 million or so in the second, while Charlie did the same in six weeks flat. The biggest difference: Crist will have to spend real money on a primary challenge, with all due respect to Bob Smith, from Marco Rubio and his band of mama's basement-dwelling bloggers, Club for Growth losers and tea party weirdos who think Barack Obama is like Adolf Hitler ... who may be funny to normal people, but who can at least help Marco raise some money ... while Kendrick can probably keep his spending down, and keep coasting along with his "petition tour," whose real aim is to pick up some name I.D. outside of Miami.
Nobody really knows who Alex Sink and Kendrick Meek are ... but at least they're not Michael Arth and Corinne Brown. Sink fares best among the members of the vaunted Democratic "unity slate" (gagging ...) posting 24% favorable ratings, just 9% unfavorable, 28% neutral and 39% "Alex who???" Meek gets 11% favorable, 5% unfavorable, 22% neutral and a whopping 62% "you want me to sign what? And who are you again...???" Their would-be primary challengers (stop laughing!) don't do as well. Hell, I'm a political junkie and I'm with the 93% who have no earthly idea who Arth is, and while Corinne's dunnos are a percentage point lower than Kendrick's, her unfavorables outweigh the love by nearly three to one (15% vs. 4%.)
Out of the handful of Republicans who know who Marco Rubio is, and the 100 percent who know who Charlie Crist is, they like to two about equally. Crist still crushes Rubio in a head-to-head when you factor all Republicans in (51% to 23% with 26% undecided,) but in what is perhaps the only interesting news in the poll, when you factor in Republicans who know both candidates, Crist and Rubio are essentially tied, 33% to 31% with 36% undecided. That should provide a kernel of hope to Rubio: though 48% of those polled have no idea who he is and the percentage who have formed no opinion about him equals his favorers (23% and 24% respectively,) he seems to have some room for growth -- if his Club for Growth and RedState.com winger friends can raise enough dough to buy him some name recognition outside Miami and those god-awful tea parties...
Bill McCollum has managed to leave barely any impression on Floridians, even after 10 terms in Congress in two different districts, two runs for governor and his current stint as attorney general. McCollum, who might as well change his middle name to Whatever, is 6 points ahead of Alex Sink, but that's small consolation since, to reiterate point one, not a lot of peole know who she is. McCollum has the highest "neutral" ratings of any of the somewhat known candidates, at 45%. Sad, since he's been swimming in Florida's political bloodstream longer than anybody running. Still, at 13%, McCollum's unfavorables are remarkably low for a guy whose crowning achievement was being a member of the Clinton impeachment brigade. The key factor for Sink is women -- if she can improve her name ID, and do better than her current margin of error lead over Bland Bill with women voters, she should be in pretty good shape.
Florida is still not a blue state (I keep telling my Democratic friends this, but they don't believe me. I think it's the Obama Uphoria.) The large share of the state that leans independent, still seems to favor Republicans over Democrats. Indies in this poll favored McCollum over Sink (41% to 27%), Crist over Meek (47% to 23%.) Democrats will have to change that if they mean to win.
Floridians like Charlie Crist, but not as much as the media says they do. Crist gets a 49 percent favorable rating in this poll, a far cry from his 60 percent plus approval ratings in other polls. Still, with the GOP brand being currently flushed down the toilet by people like Sarah "It Came From Wasila" Palin, John "The Homewrecker" Ensign and Mark "TMI" Sanford, Crist's rating, and the fact that at least for now, he would grab an incredible 28% of Democrats if he faces Kendrick Meek, and 34% if for some reason Kendrick quites the race to become ambassador to Haiti and Corinne Brown gets the nomination by default, makes him practically a GOP Jonas Brother.
Nobody cares about the other cabinet races. The undecideds are in the 70s for the most part, and none of the candidates has a dime's worth of name I.D. Wow, sure wish we had an exciting main event primary going on on the Democratic side, so voters would tune in and maybe check out the other races ... oops, never mind!
Care to read the polls for yourself? Here you go, you political nerd, you!
(Sorry Marco.) Politico's Ben Smith reports on the who's who of GOP lobbyists and big-shots who are lending their names to a $10,000 a plate fundraiser for Charlie Crist. Expect Dems to be going through the list with a fine toothed comb looking for anyone scandalicious.
In case you missed it: Crist comfortably ahead in Florida, so far
The righties may not like it, but Charlie Crist still looks like a pretty good bet for Florida's GOP Senate nomination. A June 10 Quinnipiac poll finds him way ahead of Marco Rubio, and far ahead of Kendrick Meek in a general election match-up to boot. The same polls show Florida's political Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, surprisingly close of the less well known Alex Sink for governor, but the undecided in that race is a whopping 30 percent, meaning it's probably Sink who has more room to grow. The Qinnipiac poll finds that Crist's popularity is holding up, and even exceeds that of the president:
Gov. Charlie Crist swamps former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio 54 - 23 percent in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Kendrick Meek, a Congressman from South Florida, leads the field for the Democratic Senate nomination with 18 percent, followed by two other members of Florida's congressional delegation, Corrine Brown with 12 percent and Ron Klein with 8 percent. But 57 percent of voters say they don't yet have a candidate in the race, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey.
President Barack Obama remains very popular in the state of Florida with a 58 - 35 percent job approval rating. That compares to the less than 52 percent he received in Florida last November.
Obama's job approval rating, however, trails that of Gov. Crist, whose strength across the political spectrum would make him a difficult candidate to beat in a general election for the U.S. Senate. Crist has a 62 - 28 percent job approval rating overall, including a 59 - 30 percent thumbs-up from Democrats.
"Marco Rubio says there are many Florida Republicans who don't want Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate. Depending on how you define the word 'many,' he might be correct. Unfortunately for Rubio at this stage, many, many, many more favor Crist," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
For Meek, the big news is that no one really knows him or his current Democratic opponents (which is why he's doing that statewide petition drive.) Says Qpac:
While Meek is slightly ahead in a Democratic Senate primary, 80 percent of voters statewide, including 74 percent of Democrats, don't know enough about him to form an opinion. Brown and Klein do no better.
Meanwhile Quinnipiac finds Alex Sink slightly ahead of McCollum, 38 to 34 percent:
Sink leads 72-11 among Democrats, while McCollum leads 72-5 among Republicans and 32-27 among independents.
Eleven percent of voters said that the possibility of Sink being Florida's first female governor makes them more likely to vote for her. Eighty-one percent said it didn't matter.
He's young, he's handsome, and by God, he's Hispanic! And so, the righties, tired of being branded a bunch of old white guys, have latched on to Marco Rubio, who has officially replaced Jeb Bush's son George P. as The Future of the Republican Party:
Suddenly, to the conservative hardcore, the instant endorsements that Crist received from ranking Senate Republicans after his announcement earlier this month is outrageous not just because it suggests a willingness to bend party orthodoxy but because in doing so, the party kneecaps a young, dashing, eloquent personality with potential to add star power -- a quantity it needs desperately as younger demographics slip from its reach.
In a column in Human Events, a website for the "conservative underground," John Gizzi describes how Sen. John Cornyn, chair of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, attended a luncheon last week "in which many national conservatives voiced anger over the NRSC's blessing of moderate Gov. Charlie Crist for the Senate in Florida." Gizzi himself put Cornyn on the defensive: "I asked Cornyn why his committee would make a move like that when Crist had a primary race against conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio."
And the right wing's Rubio embrace has apparently shaken Mr. Cornyn:
One of the most powerful GOP members on Capitol Hill, Cornyn has apparently been so unnerved by the backlash that followed his committee's endorsement of Crist that he has refused to answer more questions about it, especially as bloggers call for his resignation or at least for his withdrawal of that endorsement.
Double meanwhile, George P. fights back, not content to let Marco take his spot. He's also ripping Miss Charlie and dropping major hints that he wants to be Marco Rubio, too:
I want to obtain success in my own right. I want people to look at a record of accomplishment that I’ve put together in my own right and not based on family name,” Bush said. “I haven’t achieved my personal goals. Definitely down the road I’d love to reassess but as of right now it’s not for me.”
The Republican Party is in a sure-fire pickle. They can't stand moderates -- really they can't -- but the available evidence for the last two election cycles suggests they can't get their preferred candidates (namely, anti-taxation, pro-corporate, illegal immigrant hunters who think Barack Obama is a foreign Muslim and who stockpile guns in their mother's basements) elected.
In fact, most of the successes the party has had in winning elections in recent years have been with candidates who at least tried to appear moderate (former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey, former Gov. Pataki in New York, the ousted John Sununu in New Hampshire, Senators Snowe and Collins in Maine, and even the Bushes: Jeb, who dropped the "probably nothing" approach to ethnic politics, sucked up to black and Hispanic voters and moderated his way to victory in 1998, and George W, who ran as a "compassionate conservative" for president in 2000...) Here in Dixie, where the Republican Party is now almost exclusively based, and where Saxby Chambliss (one of the many veteran-smearing GOPers to slime their way into office in recent years) still has a job, it's looking dicey for the GOP when they try to go the Club for Growth route, rather than the Bush (pre governing) route.
Enter Marco Rubio ... the young, Cuban-American Republican of the Future. He's good looking ... he can rip into Democrats in Spanish, just like Jebbie, and he's running on those vaunted "conservative principles," like refusing to take federal aide that could help salve a yawning, $6 billion statewide deficit run up by Republicans -- that wingers cherish (at least now that George W. Bush is out of office.) And yet, he can't catch a break. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, let by Texan John Cornyn, took less than 15 minutes to shove him aside and endorse yet another squishy "moderate," Barack Obama's fave GOP governor, Charlie Crist, for Melly Mel Martinez's Senate seat -- without even checking in with El Rushbo first -- and causing much head scratching and consternation among the qaida ("the base," for those of you not caught up on the lingo) who are rightly wondering whether a party leadership that has utterly failed to advance the winger cause for so many years, and which so thoroughly screwed up the country for the last eight, should get to pick Florida's GOP Senate candidate. For shame! And now, the Florida GOPers, who, like Dick "pick the stranger's car over his, kid" Cheney, would take El Rushbo over Colin Powell, are in mini-revolt:
Anti-Crist 'backlash' brewing
So national Republican party leaders have blessed Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate and the chairman of Republican Party of Florida is ready to do the same. Case closed?
Not so fast. Sharon Day, the party's national committeewoman, is refusing to sign off on a statement that would allow the state party to start providing Crist with support even though he's running in a contested primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio and other lesser-known candidates.
The Hillsborough and Brevard local parties have passed resolutions protesting the state party's efforts to close ranks, and Palm Beach Republicans are considering the same.
Throw in the RedStaters, who are pledging to starve the NRSC of cash as payback for not towing the Club for Growth line, all because of their love and support for Hispanics (stop that laughing!) and you've got yourself a veritable teabag party of right wing fury! OMG, wait till Cornyn finds out the guy is gay! God, I love politics!
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
With all the media excitement over Charlie Crist apparently becoming the next Senator from Florida before a single primary vote has been cast ... ahem ... and despite all the attention Marco Rubio is getting for getting the shaft from the NRSC, Charlie and Marco aren't the only candidates in the race. Dr. Marion Thorpe, an African-American physician who frankly, has been running for the Republican Senate nod before either of the other two guys, issued this statement today (for which he helpfully tagged me on Facebook...)
THORPE For US SENATE Statement: The Protocol and Fairness of the 2010 Race
Dr. Marion D. Thorpe, Jr., candidate for U.S Senate in the state of Florida remains 100% committed to all laws and notions affording open and fair election processes in our Nation. In response to the growing disagreement between the state-wide Republican Party of Florida and Florida's County Republican chapters and grassroots activists, Dr. Thorpe has issued the following statement:
I support efforts of party activists to pass resolutions throughout the state of Florida in support of an open and fair Primary Election process.
While I welcome the Governor into the race, I do so with the hopes of having a spirited debate about who can be the best standard-bearer for the Republican Party, the state of Florida and the Nation as a whole.
In a free republic we have elections, not coronations.
I do so hope that Governor Crist and Speaker Rubio will join me in support of these resolutions.
Marion D. Thorpe, Jr. MD MPH
Chief Medical Officer (Former) Agency for Health Care Administration State of Florida
Thorpe is also a conservative, who last time around ran against Alcee Hastings for Congress. We'll see if the media -- or the qaida -- gives him any love.
The RedState crazy train finally makes a stop in Florida
So... the guys over at RedState (when they're not desperately Googling for proof that Barack Obama is not really an American citizen, or stockpiling guns inside their moms' garages...) have launched a war ... against Republicans. Specifically, they're going to war against the Republican Senate Campaign Committee for the offense of supporting Miss Charlie for Senate. Cue the circular firing squad, in which the RedStaters attempt to ... (sorry, I started laughing and nearly choked myself...) stand up for DIVERSITY!
I’m reminded of a quote from the media a couple of months ago that conservatives could not support Charlie Crist in Florida because of his support for diversity initiatives. The reporter failed to them point out that these white Christian conservatives were supporting the Latino candidate.
Tom Slade, a former chairman of the Florida GOP, said popularity always trumps ideology, and he predicted Crist easily would win the Republican nomination.
That, he added, that might be good for the party as a whole.
“There are not enough blue-eyed, white, blond guys and girls who go to church three times on Sunday and once on Wednesday to make up a majority for the Republican Party almost anywhere,” Slade said. “If we don’t broaden the party, there won’t be much of a party left.”
Yes, so let’s broaden the party by electing a white guy instead of a Latino.
So... RedState.com is where you go to be in solidarity with Latinos? ... Ooh, and they have a Facebook page, too! These Republicans are so tech savvy! ... Except that the purpose of the Facebook page is to bankrupt the entity whose job it is to get Republicans elected to the Senate ... where currently there are only 40 Republicans ... um ...
At some point, I'm going to start thinking that wingers don't actually want to win elections. Which brings me to a great quote from Larry Wilkerson in that chilling TWN post:
... fewer Americans identify as Republicans than at any time since WWII. We're at 21% and falling--right in line with the number of cranks, reprobates, and loonies in the country.
No love for Charlie: Marco socks the gov en los cojones
It's Tan vs. Pretty in the Florida Republican race for U.S. Senate. Starting for the Tan team: Charlie "Tooootally Straight Guy" Crist. For Pretty: genetically blessed, bilingual right winger Marco Rubio.
Charlie Crist is the front runner in the race for Sideshow Mel's Senate seat according to all the polls, and he isn't even in the race yet. But that hasn't stopped both the Democrats, and the Club for Growth wing of the Republican Party from kicking him in the can.
First the DSCC launched a TV ad against the guvnah, accusing him of abandoning the state in its time of need by ... not ... declaring that he's running for Senate... an ad clearly meant to send Crist a message in advance, that the Democratic Party is willing to go to war against even an Obama-friendly GOP governor, who has supported the president when it counted, in order to get that seat.
Charlie (center) and Marco (left) in happier looking times
Now, a pair of Democratic strategists have outed Rubio for doing the old Spanish-language double take -- saying one thing about Charlie in English and another en Espanol (hey, don't we often accuse terror-luvin' Arabs of doing that?) Generation Miami reports:
Two Marco Rubios announced their intention to run for Senate today. One Marco Rubio spoke in English and said his campaign will be “based on ideas” and isn’t “against anyone or anything.” The other was a Spanish-speaking Marco Rubio that accused President Obama on Univision of wanting to implement “American socialism here in the United States.” This wouldn’t be the first time you see this linguistic dichotomy. In May of last year, Rubio told former Herald reporter, Rui Ferreira, that Obama was a socialist.
And now for the juciest bit of all: the possibility that Jeb Bush, the miserable, but astonishingly, still sought after former governor (who has no love for Charlie,) could jump into the race on the side of the current GOP underdog, Rubio. Question: if Jeb jumps in and puts his money, name and rep on the line for Marco and Charlie still wins, does that mean that there IS still a moderate wing of the Republican Party, but it, like the crazy right wing part, is located only in the South...? Or does it just mean that the GOP really is dead as a doornail?
According to The Hill, step one for Marco is to Obamatize Crist:
Rubio has already begun trying to bring Crist’s numbers down, and he’s getting a big assist from Democrats wary of Crist’s bipartisan appeal in the general election.
For his part, Rubio has been indirectly hitting Crist for not offering an alternative to the Democrats — a nod to the stimulus — and repeatedly referring to him as “famous” — a line of attack similar to a Democratic tactic that has portrayed Crist as a golden boy lacking substance or results.
Um... doesn't his bipartisan appeal make him MORE electable, rather than less? Purity over electability strikes again...
And now for a blind item: behind the scenes, could someone or other be trying to talk Charlie into abandoning a Senate run, re-upping for governor, and reaping his blessings when Bill Nelson retires? (If I'm Charlie, I read the polls and I don't take that deal, but that's just me...) The cross-partisan plot thickens...
Charlie Crist isn't even officially running for Senate yet (okay, yeah, we all know that lady he's married to ain't staying in Tallahassee, so he's running...) but the DSCC is already attacking him for allegedly bailing on the state when times get tough. Peep the ad (HT to Politico):
More than half (57%) of Florida voters say it is at least somewhat likely they would vote for Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in the state's United States Senate race in 2010. That figure includes 23% who say they are Very Likely to do so.
Meanwhile Bobby Jindal was on MTP this weekend, and still trying to convince thinking people that his state doesn't want to take the stim money. By the way, Jindal's argument is that he has to look out for the business owners and "taxpayers" of Louisiana, which is why he doesn't want unemployment insurance help from Uncle Sam. In other words: screw the broke. Jindal represents the "winners."
SC's Mark Sanford is trying to boost his GOP star power by saying he doesn't want the money either, (unless of course he DOES want the money...) to which I say, "make my day." (Paul Begala agrees. Any Republican governor or Senator who doesn't want the money should just leave it on the table (and good luck getting re-elected.) Arnold Schwarzenegger, who the Daily Beast reports nearly left the GOP over his insistence on pragmatism, said on "This Week" that the Obama administration can "give the money to Cali." And Charlie Crist, who did a great job on MTP and looked incredibly reasonable, hammered home the fact that he's in office as a public servant, not a party servant, and he answers to the people of Florida, not the GOP. If the Republican Party had any brains left (which it apparently doesn't,) it would be more Arnold and Charlie, and less Bobby, Mark, and crazy Shelby.
Crist names Fla. NAACP leader minority adviser The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Charlie Crist has named Florida NAACP president Adora Obi Nweze as his special adviser on minority affairs.
Crist announced the creation of the position and appointment at a civil rights round-table discussion Thursday. It coincided with the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and President Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.
Crist said the appointment formalized a long-standing reliance on Nweze for advice on such issues as minority participation in state government and programs including equal access to education, health care and housing.
Yeah. He's running for Senate. Sorry, but Charlie didn't marry a lady just to stay around in Tallahassee, and moves like this scream "cross-over appeal..."
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) looms hugely over his state’s open Senate race, holding 2-to-1 leads over all Democrats interested in the race, according to a new Strategic Vision poll.
The poll finds the popular governor, who will wait until after Florida’s legislative session to make his plans known, leading Democratic Reps. Ron Klein and Kendrick Meek by 34 points each.
He leads state Sen. Dan Gelber 58 percent to 27, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio 57 percent to 29.
The independent poll, set to be released Thursday, was conducted by a GOP-leaning firm.
The Meek people will probably dismiss the poll as a GOP leaner, but the reality is, Gallup is a GOP leaning poll, and so is Mason-Dixon. Even if Strategic is off by 10 points, it's a tough poll to swallow. More details:
The poll shows Klein would lead a primary between the four of them, but with only 12 percent of the vote and with 66 percent of primary voters undecided. None of the four has a sizable statewide profile.
In a GOP primary with four other candidates, Crist is at 54 percent, while Rep. Connie Mack is at 16 percent.
Mack, who could benefit from having the same name as his father, a two-term senator, leads a Crist-less primary, taking 21 percent. Rep. Vern Buchanan takes second, with 11 percent, while former state House Speakers Allan Bense and Marco Rubio are at 8 and 5 percent, respectively.
Mack leads all four Democrats in head-to-head general election match-ups, while Buchanan, Bense and Rubio are all neck-and-neck with the Democrats.
“Buchanan and Rubio have problems despite being in the news a lot recently,” Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson said. “Buchanan could, with money, buy name ID, but would need to attack Mack. Bense could be a sleeper.”
Among the Democrats, Iorio and Klein run best in the general election.
In almost every race without Crist, though, about half of those polled are undecided.
Johnson said Iorio looks strong for the general election but could have trouble in the primary.
“Meek has a ceiling of support of about 25 percent, and it’s hard to see him winning the primary,” Johnson said. “Klein and Gelber have the most potential but could cross each other out.”
That's what you call an uh-oh... Here are the numbers:
1. Whom would you support for the Democratic nomination for United Senate, if the choices were Dan Gelber, Pam Iorio, Kendrick Meek, and Ron Klein? Ron Klein 12% Kendrick Meek 10% Pam Iorio 8% Dan Gelber 4% Undecided 66%
2. Whom would you support for the Republican nomination for United States Senate, if the choices were Alan Bense, Vern Buchanan, Charlie Crist, Connie Mack IV, and Marco Rubio? Charlie Crist 54% Connie Mack IV 16% Vern Buchanan 10% Alan Bense 7% Marco Rubio 4% Undecided 9%
3. Whom would you support for the Republican nomination for United States Senate, if the choices were Alan Bense, Vern Buchanan, Connie Mack IV, and Marco Rubio? Connie Mack IV 21% Vern Buchanan 11% Alan Bense 8% Marco Rubio 5% Undecided 55%
4. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Ron Klein, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 58% Ron Klein 24% Undecided 18%
5. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Kendrick Meek, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 60% Kendrick Meek 26% Undecided 14%
6. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Pam Iorio, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 57% Pam Iorio 29% Undecided 14%
7. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Dan Gelber, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 58% Dan Gelber 27% Undecided 15%
In Fort Myers today: President Obama and Charlie Crist team up
Let me say again, though I think I've said it before, that Charlie Crist is a very, very smart man. And ambitious. He neutralized lingering questions about his sexuality (at least in the press) by marrying a girl. And he didn't just marry any gil -- he married a rich socialite whose public image and net worth can only help his political fortunes.
He ran and won in 2006 as a moderate Republican, and succeeded in winning over a good number of Democrats (he also won 18 percent of the Black vote.)
He has somehow gotten away with flitting off to Europe for a $400,000 junket, having neutralized the story with ... the wedding to a girl...
When McCain ran for president, Charlie backed him instead of Uncle "Loser" Rudy, and even suffered the indignity of getting onstage with Sarah Palin AND shucking for oil derricks off the coast of Miami, all in an attempt to become vice president.
And when that didn't work out, he went back to being a moderate, and most recently stepped out publicly in support of President Obama and the economic stimulus package, becoming the most prominent governor -- and the first prominent Republican in the country, to do so. He did it early, and he did it at the same time El Rushbo and his former candidate, John McCain, were doing everything in their power to play spoiler.
I want to start by thanking your governor, Charlie Crist, for joining us today. Governors understand our economic crisis as well as anyone; they're on the front lines dealing with it every day. And Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party. When the town is burning, we don't check party labels. Everyone needs to grab a hose!
Governor Crist and governors across the country understand that. Mayors across the country understand that. And I think you understand that, too. Which is what I want to talk about today.
Crist's embrace of the stiumulus is good policy and good politics, especially for a guy who may yet run for Senate (against, among others, Kendrick Meek, who press released his "accompanying" of President Obama to Fort Myers "aboard Air Force One" yesterday, but who didn't get much of a photo op out of it, while Crist got to introduce the president), and who already has crossover appeal among Democrats, who sometimes appear to like him better than his own base does. In a state that's trending blue, pissing off a few GOP hardliners probably helps Crist, rather than hurting him, especially since his actions, unlike his silly "drill here, drill now" fakery, will likely result in billions of dollars flowing into the state, while his opponents are only promising to say no, and say it often.
Also in Politico: Crist says yes, Mel says no. (And wouldn't that contrast be helpful for a would-be GOP Senator running against the tide of Democratic salivating over 60 votes in the Senate... what if the 60th vote could be a guy named Charlie...?)
Tired of getting your stimulus information from Rush Limbaugh? Here's what the stimulus package really contains, state by state. Download the file here. The Florida goody bag is as follows:
AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT PLAN: THE IMPACT FOR FLORIDA
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is a nationwide effort to create jobs, jumpstart growth and transform our economy for the 21st century. Across the country, this plan will help businesses create jobs and families afford their bills while laying a foundation for future economic growth in key areas like health care, clean energy, education and a 21st century infrastructure. In Florida, this plan will deliver immediate, tangible impacts, including:
• Creating or saving 218,300 jobs over the next two years. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector.
[Source: White House Estimate based on Romer and Bernstein, “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” January 9, 2009.]
• Providing a making work pay tax cut of up to $1,000 for 6,890,000 workers and their families. The plan will make a down payment on the President’s Making Work Pay tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, designed to pay out immediately into workers’ paychecks. [Source: White House Estimate based on IRS Statistics of Income]
• Making 195,000 families eligible for a new American Opportunity Tax Credit to make college affordable. By creating a new $2,500 partially refundable tax credit for four years of college, this plan will give 3.8 million families nationwide – and 195,000 families in Florida – new assistance to put college within their reach. [Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of U.S. Census data]
• Offering an additional $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 761,000 workers in Florida who have lost their jobs in this recession, and providing extended unemployment benefits to an additional 170,000 laid-off workers. [Source: National Employment Law Project]
• Providing funding sufficient to modernize at least 485 schools in Florida so our children have the labs, classrooms and libraries they need to compete in the 21st century economy. [Source: White House Estimate]
In addition to this immediate assistance for Florida, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will help transform our economy by:
• Doubling renewable energy generating capacity over three years, creating enough renewable energy to power 6 million American homes.
• Computerizing every American’s health record in five years, reducing medical errors and saving billions of dollars in health care costs.
• Launching the most ambitious school modernization program on record, sufficient to upgrade 10,000 schools.
• Enacting the largest investment increase in our nation’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s.
Sheeeit, Florida's got a deficit, man! So Miss Charlie is backing (ahem) the stimulus plan, as are most of the nation's governors, R and D (and Ahnold, too.) See, governors are actually seeing the economic shitstorm close up, and many of them, including Crist, have balanced budget amendments that are forcing them to make deep cuts to things like education and health care. Bottom line: anything that puts money back into bleeding state coffers is welcome. Watch this MSNBC segment and by the way, tell me you don't think this guy is running for Senate...
Charlie Crist won the governorship with about 18 percent of the black vote, and a not insignificant share of white Democrats. Now that he's through auditioning to be John McCain's running mate, he has ditched the "drill here" crap and is returning to the bipartisan themes that got him in the door. Of course, Crist does have problems, including a certain European junket, and despite the wife, he's still gay. But the old model of red meat winger doesn't win beyond House races, and this guy has already proved he can win statewide. My take: he's running.
Now that he's married to a girl, Charlie Crist is being sought out for all KINDS of good stuff! The latest: the GOP is so starved for talent in the wake of the Jeb Bush withdrawal, some in the party are wooing Miss Charlie to run for Sideshow Mel's soon-to-be vacated Senate seat. From The Hill:
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) on Wednesday said efforts are ongoing to persuade Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) to run for his state’s open Senate seat.
“We’re going to continue to visit. It’s very early in the game, but recruitment is important and the ability to be competitive on the financial front is very important too. We’re working on both of those fronts,” Cornyn told The Hill.
Few Florida politicians can match Crist’s popularity and fundraising potential. The governor, a centrist who was elected in 2006, has denied any interest in running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R), but Cornyn, who has spoken to the governor about the race, suggested Crist may be open to persuasion.
Cornyn said he's also talked to Marco Rubio, and Florida's Senatorial Don Quixote, Bill "Kookoo" McCollum. Still to be seen: whether Kendrick Meek's Washington friends, including his newly minted campaign guru, Steve Hildebrand, can talk Alex Sink out of making a run on the D side. Of course, if she doesn't run, and Meek rolls over smaller fries like Dan Gelber, that will make it 12 consecutive years of his political life without an actual opponent or difficult race. Not exactly a good thing if you're about to take on a desperate Republican Party for seat #60 in the Senate...
Meanwhile: Miss Charlie gets married ... to a woman!
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his new beard ...er ... bride, Carole Rome
The Florida governor didn't get tapped by John McCain (get your mind out of the gutter! I meant "tapped" to be his veep...) and he married the rich lady anyway!
I happened to be taping a TV interview today with someone "in the know" (and in the Florida GOP,) and this person, whom I won't name, told me that it's well known that Crist and his new bride will not even live together. Sure, there's the governor's mansion in Tallahassee, but he's hardly there. He's got a condo of his own, and she lives on swanky Fisher Island (her kids live mostly with their father in New York.) So the marriage might be, shall we say, of the John and Cindy McCain variety -- heavy on the potential political bankroll, light on the nookie. I can just see poor Charlie on the honeymoon, ogling the male waiters and thinking to himself, "god, do I actually have to see her naked...?" Okay, I know you want details, so here you go:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Charlie Crist became the first sitting Florida governor to wed in nearly 42 years, exchanging vows Friday at a ceremony attended by some 200 relatives, friends and celebrities.
The 52-year-old governor wed his 39-year-old bride, New York socialite Carole Rome, at First United Methodist Church, a short walk from Crist's rented condo in St. Petersburg. They met at a dinner in New York City in September 2007 and Crist proposed less than 10 months later with a sapphire engagement ring.
Crist kissed Rome briefly at the end of the ceremony — perhaps too briefly. She put her hands on his face and kissed him again. Afterward, the couple walked out of the church and addressed waiting reporters.
"She's a beautiful first lady. I couldn't be more excited," Crist said after the ceremony, in which Rome wore a floor-length classic silk gown by a Spanish designer purchased at upscale Wedding Atelier in Manhattan. "It's a great night for Florida and it's a great night for us."
Attending the 20-minute ceremony were former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, former Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, former U.S. Senator Connie Mack, Geraldo Rivera, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Fla.
Rome is president of Franco American Novelty Co., her family's New York-area Halloween costume company. She stopped managing its daily business when she moved to ritzy Fisher Island near Miami in 2006.
Hm. Costumes. How fitting. And there were protesters, too! Gay ones, even! Plus a press conference after... And it wouldn't be a kind of gay wedding without a guy with a big handlebar mustache in attendance. Thanks, Geraldo! But what's most interesting of all, is the way the supposed Fourth Estate, the national and statewide media pretend that they don't all know what they know they know about Crist's sexual orientation. Such hard-hitting reporting burnishes your faith in democracy, doesn't it?
Okay ... wedding video time!
Seriously, happy wedding, guv. And too bad you spent all that money on that trade junket to Europe. Kind of takes the wind out of your sales for a honeymoon...
Sarah Palin will be in Miami for the Republican Governors Association meeting this week there, and, you know, she'll be doing a lot of media and press conferences also, and well, when she ... rears her head ... in Miami ... where will she be? So, and ... she wants to be president in 2012 also. You betcha!
When she gets here, on Wednesday I think, Sarah will be welcomed by a chastened Charlie Crist and a battered Republican Party:
In 2006, when the GOP governors gathered in Miami, Crist was dubbed a ''rock star'' at the meeting. He was one of only three nonincumbent Republicans to win governor races in a nation that started leaning Democratic.
This time, the Republican Governors Association meeting comes on the heels of John McCain losing in Crist's state, a Republican must-win, on Election Day.
And the number of real jobs lost is troubling Crist even more. Florida lost 115,000 jobs -- the most in the nation -- in the past year on Crist's watch. The state budget is hemorrhaging money. And Crist's strong poll numbers have slipped slightly in recent months.
The losses have fueled worries about Republican leadership in Florida as well as the nation, targeting every leader from President Bush to Crist himself to Crist's hand-picked state party chief, Jim Greer.
''Crist can't be blamed for McCain running a crummy campaign and being weighed down by the burden of President Bush,'' said national Republican strategist Ed Rollins. ``But Crist needs to rebuild his own party in Florida because it's not as safe for Republicans as it once was.''
Few places are, leaving Republicans to debate which way the party should go. Among the questions: How much can the party push social issues, and how can Republicans attract more minority voters like Hispanics? Hispanics flocked to the Democratic side amid the immigration debate in 2006.
Crist said governors ''traditionally'' have provided the leadership to solve these problems. The RGA spotlight will be on that other fresh-faced Republican governor's race winner from 2006: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose sharp tongue and social conservatism set her apart from the affable centrist from Florida.
''I look forward to seeing her this week'' Crist said Tuesday. ''I think she'll be a significant factor in the future of our party. I certainly hope so.'' What of his own poll numbers and political fortunes? ''I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about Florida,'' Crist said, pledging to ``stay focused on the people of our state.''
Crist will likely run for reelection in 2010. Republicans like J.M. ''Mac'' Stipanovich say Crist will beat any Democrat ``like a rented mule.''
But others, like lobbyist and McCain Hispanic outreach chief Ana Navarro, fault Crist for appearing to help himself more than the party or McCain.
''Charlie Crist milked this campaign for all it was worth, used it to enhance his national profile, and never put in any sweat equity. When there were cameras he would show up,'' she said. ``We begged Jeb Bush to come out the last few weeks because we realized Charlie Crist had no coattails. It's clear that any Republican running statewide is more vulnerable than they were four years ago. There's clearly a kink in the organization.''
A chief Florida fundraiser for Crist and McCain, lobbyist Brian Ballard, dismissed Navarro's broadside as hard feelings left over from her support of Crist's Republican opponent in 2006. Ballard said Republicans should credit Barack Obama for a win, and should credit Crist for governing effectively and showing the party how to win.
''There are some who want fire-breathing, red-meat-eating conservatism and are proud to lose with honor. We'll remain in the minority as a result,'' Ballard said. ``I like to win.''
The last time Sarah and Charlie hung out, she was caterwalling about Obama "palling around with terrorists" and being introduced by a 1950s-era southern sheriff. Now, things are slightly different, also.
By the way, many Republicans here in the sunshine state are still sore at Miss Charlie for extending early voting hours, and for restoring many felon voting rights, both of which helped Democrats. But Charlie shouldn't be blamed for McCain's losses here. Obama handed him an historic drubbing among Hispanics statewide, winning 57 percent. And black turnout was overwhelming enough that had Crist not extended early voting hours, he probably would have been sued, and the state would have become a 2000 style embarassment (after which I believe Obama still would have won.) But Republicans have to hang someone, and at the moment, Crist is in the crosshairs. And yet, it is moderates like Crist who represent the future of the party, if it has one, no matter how much Rush and Beck and Hannity squeal. They take pot shots at him at their peril.
Apparently, Charlie Crist's decision to extend early voting came after he got a letter from the nine Democrats in the Florida Congressional delegation, though I'm told the state party and statewide elected officials also put pressure on him. Jeb Bush used a similar order to keep polls open after voting problems broke out in 2002 when the second or third iteration of new voting machines was being implemented in the state.
Not everybody is happy about the decision. Take this guy:
"He just blew Florida for John McCain," one plugged in Florida Republican just told me.
The "me" in this case is not me, of course, it's Politico's Ben Smith. So, why so glum, Mr. Republican? (who is apparently the former state party chairman...) The polls, for one thing:
Barack Obama is leading Republican presidential rival John McCain in two battleground states, Florida and Ohio, where voters have more confidence in his ability to handle the troubled economy, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.
... In Florida, a state that was considered a likely win for Republicans not long ago, McCain is trailing, 50% to 43%.
In both states, Obama, a Democrat, has opened commanding leads over McCain among women, young people, first-time voters and blacks and other minorities.
TALLAHASSEE -- Breaking with the talking points of his fellow Republicans in Washington, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he does not think voter fraud and the vote-registration group ACORN are a major problem in the Sunshine State.
''I think that there's probably less [fraud] than is being discussed. As we're coming into the closing days of any campaign, there are some who enjoy chaos,'' Crist told reporters.
Crist made his comments as the Republican National Committee hosted a conference call with reporters to tie Democrat Barack Obama to suspicious voter-registration cards submitted by ACORN across the nation and in four Florida counties, including Broward.
In the Broward case, an unknown person attempted to re-register a longtime voter named Susan S. Glenckman. Broward officials caught the error in August when it was brought to their attention by ACORN.
During the Wednesday Republican conference call, national party spokesman Danny Diaz focused more on a case out of Orange County, in which someone used an ACORN-stamped voter-registration card to sign up Mickey Mouse.
But Crist's Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, said he doesn't think ACORN is committing systematic voter fraud. And Crist said that settles the matter because ''I have enormous confidence'' in Browning.
Like ACORN spokesmen, Browning says the false voter registration forms could be blamed on unethical canvassers or on citizens who themselves fill out fictitious voter cards.
... Elections officials point out that while voter-registration fraud is relatively easy, vote fraud is far more difficult because a criminal would have to evade multiple layers of computer-system and identity checks. They also say the system is not overwhelmed with phony registrations, as Diaz suggested during the conference call.
On a more serious note, the systematic removal of U.S. attorneys by the Bush Justice Department were all about Karl Rove demanding that the prosecutors go after illegitimate vote fraud cases, and when they refused, they were gone. In the end, this is about using phony charges of voter fraud to deligitimize Democratic voters, and failing that, elections in which a Democrat wins.
Mac and Charles in better days, just after McCain won the Florida primary in January
After the GOP presidential campaign veers off the rails, Miss Charlie quits John McCain like a bad tanning parlor:
He says he will "try" to help McCain when "I have time."
He didn't have time over the weekend when he skipped a McCain rally before the UF-LSU football game, opting instead for a trip to Disney. The governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, managed to show up.
I was reminded of Crist, during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign, bailing out of an event with George Bush.
Truth be told, Crist will have nothing but time on his hands until after the election. On Monday, his schedule included nothing in the morning and a tour of two small businesses in St. Petersburg in the afternoon. ...
Sure hate it.
Turns out Crist was with Sarah Palin when she made her now infamous "palling around with terrorists" jab at Barack Obama on Florida's west coast, and he was also "palling around" with Sarah (and even introduced her,) at the Germain Arena when Sheriff Mike Scott entered the annals of campaign history. Crist's comments after the rally (the day after last week's town hall style debate) were cool, to say the least, and he was careful to preserve his bi-partisan bona fides, even while playing the good partisan soldier:
“There’s always a back and forth, especially toward the end of these campaigns,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s fun for anyone.”
Asked how much time he would spend campaigning for McCain this month, Crist said it was not his priority.
“I’ll be involved, but my first duty is to the people of Florida, to be their governor and I take that role very, very seriously,” he said. “So when I have time to be able to help, I’ll try to do that but I know where my first loyalty is to and it’s to the 20 million people that live in the state that I love.”
Crist was magnanimous in his assessment of Tuesday night’s presidential debate.
“I thought Sen. McCain did very well. In all fairness, I think Sen. Obama comports himself very well,” said Crist.
It should also be noted that the Florida guvnah also skipped the GOP convention. He probably doesn't enjoy big, rowdy right wing crowds who tend to boo moderate, not exactly completely verifiably straight Republicans like him, if you know what I mean. And Crist has had a good, solid relationship with Florida Democrats, who could also increase their numbers in the state house in November, and with groups like the NAACP, who have been horrified by the goings on at the McCain-Palin campaign. Why would Crist put all of that at risk for McCain, after McCain abandoned the reasonable wing of the party for the kooks?
Oh, and if I were Charlie's fiancee, I wouldn't bet everything I had on that December wedding. Getting engaged was kind of part of the veep marketing strategy, and well ... McCain, as we now know all too well, went another way.
When George W. Bush was an oil man (and not a very good one,) he named one of his companies Arbusto, meaning "little Bush" in Spanish. Others in the industry derisively called the company "El Busto," because it had a little meeting its prime directive: finding oil in Texas.
When El Busto's little brother was running Florida, he spent eight years exsanguinating state revenues by slashing taxes on wealthy Floridians and corporations (while cutting Medicaid and other healthcare benefits for the poor, disabled and elderly, and raising tuition at the state's colleges), and privatizing everything he could get his hands on, from state payroll services to prisons. Now that the state has a shiny new, totally not gay, Republican governor, we're supposed to be reaping the windfall of the twin Bush booms -- the national one that was supposed to be brought on by Dubya's aggressive tax cutting, and the local one that was supposed to be the "smart Bush brother's" legacy to Charlie Crist. Well ... a funny thing happened on the way to the boom: Florida, it seems, went bust. From today's Miami Herald:
TALLAHASSEE -- The top job-loss state in the nation. Shrinking wages. Collapsing population growth. Record home foreclosures.
Florida's economy is not just firmly and bleakly in the red ---- it will likely stay that way until next June, according to the state government's top economists who issued their most pessimistic financial forecast in years.
With few exceptions, the economists' Wednesday forecast shows that most economic indicators will do worse in this budget year when compared to a forecast they issued in February.
At the heart of the problem is the falling housing market, upon which Florida's economy has a Monopoly game-like reliance. The economists projected new housing construction will fall to about 60,000 units this year -- a decrease of 78 percent from a high of nearly 283,000 in 2005.
Total statewide construction expenditures, including public buildings, are expected to decrease by $10.6 billion, or 21.5 percent.
The most dire fact of all: Florida lost more jobs in the past 12 months -- 74,700 -- than any other state in the nation. And the economists predict that more people in construction, government, manufacturing, financial services, transportation and warehousing will be out of work soon.
''We were No. 1 in jobs created in the entire country,'' said Clyde Diao, one of Gov. Charlie Crist's economists, referring to the booming economy in 2005. ``Now, if you count the District of Columbia, we're 51.''
Frank Williams, the Department of Revenue's chief economist, agreed: ``We're No. 1 in job losses. Absolutely.''
Were it not for employment gains in the health, education and the low-paying services fields, they said, the job-loss numbers would be far higher. Construction lost 77,000 jobs and manufacturing lost 23,000 in the last year. By month's end, the experts project, Florida's job-loss rate will be higher the nation's for the first time since 2002.
Which leads us to another little problem for the Sunshine State. Smarter Bush's tax cut mania really caught on, especially with Florida homeowners, who have never missed an opportunity to lower their property taxes, at all costs. In January, Florida homeowners pushed through a constitutional amendment that slashed property taxes statewide, mostly for wealthy homeowners, by increasing the homestead exemption, while netting about $200 bucks for the average homesteader. But the pain from those cuts is now being felt statewide, as counties struggle to find places to cut. Take the Miami-Dade school system (the nation's fourth largest), which is struggling to slice $284 million from its budget to close a yawning deficit, without sending teachers to the picket lines. The county school board is considering everything from slashing its workforce to deleting school bus routes to close the gap. The county narrowly escaped cutting school police this week, when Superintendent Rudy Crew, who was apparently hoping to become Secretary of Education in a Hillary Clinton administration, according to a state official who asked not to be named, tabled a proposal to cut the force. Statewide, Floridians are seeing the real world cost of tax cuts in the parks that are having to close early, cuts to desperately needed affordable housing and economic development progams, and inevitably, future cuts to police and fire services and pension benefits.
Florida's legislature has already slashed $6 billion from the budget, which according to the state constitution, must be balanced. Most of that money has come out of the hides of schools, services for the elderly and the poor, and Florida's infrastructure. The state is busy privatizing roads everywhere it can, to pass more costs onto already burdened drivers, who are paying some of the highest gas prices in the country. Home prices in the state are cratering, and yet Miami-Dade County (the largest county in Florida) still has a glut of unbought homes and condos. Downtown Miami is dotted with silent cranes and half built high rises that are a soaring symbol of Florida's economic meltdown, which TIME Magazine recently chronicled in an article asking whether Florida has become the "Sunset State." And even with the glut of housing, Miami-Dade and other counties are in the middle of an affordable housing crisis and a foreclosure crisis (Florida is second only to California in home defaults.) Indeed, a new NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows half of Floridians struggling on multiple fronts: falling home prices, a credit crunch, and soaring fuel and food prices. (Low icome housing and worker's rights advocate Gihan Pereira, co-founder of the Miami Workers Center, this week called Florida "the canary in the coal mine," and indeed the state's troubles have been an ominous economic harbinger for the nation.)
And what can our fair governor, who has gone so far as to promise to hand over Florida's beaches to Chevron AND marry a woman in order to become John McCain's running mate, do to turn things (including his veep prospects) around?
"This time next year, we wouldn't expect to be a whole lot better than we are right now," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic & Demographic Research, who headed the economic estimating conference. "The question is, does it continue on beyond that, or does it start improving?"
And Florida's prospects are further clouded by past failures, particularly during the Bush years, to invest in education, in order to create more potential high wage job earners, rather than relying on low wage service and tourism industry jobs to fill the bill. Florida continues to languish near the bottom in high school graduation rates (we have the sixth lowest rate in the U.S.), and according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, "if the dropouts from Florida's Class of 2008 had stayed in school and earned diplomas, the economy of the Sunshine State could have enjoyed an additional $25.3 billion in wages, taxes and productivity over those former students' lifetimes." The sad news for Florida is that the state for years was one of those "high growth, high poverty" states at the greatest risk of economic decline, and now that the decline has come, the state's tax cutting leaders have few cards to play.
Governor Crist promised last year that the latest tax cuts would, produce a real estate-driven "sonic boom" that would send Florida's economy into growth overdrive. It's turned out to be more of a sonic bubble. And it has officially burst. |
The winner is: Blog de Leon, from January 18, 2005, on the curious tale of Harrold Carswell, and a cautionary tale for Charlie Crist (with interesting shout outs to Pat Buchanan, and the guy he confused John McCain with the other night, Dwight Eisenhower.) |
Early, late notes: Crist finds his 'Grace,' Obama unplugged, and a Williams Wimbledon
Three quick things before I go to sleep:
What wouldn't Charlie Crist do to become John McCain's running mate? Cross "marry an actual woman" off the list! One question though: who's Jack in this scenario ... Jeff Kotkamp?
Meanwhile, if Barack Obama moves his nomination acceptance speech to the Broncos' stadium (which I will always call Mile High Stadium. Invesco Field ... ha!) it will be a P.R. coup, and a big win for the candidate. An outdoor acceptance speech in front of 72,000 people, rather than indoors before 22,000 bigwigs, would create a powerful parallel symmetry between Martin Luther King's momentous, outdoor, "I have a dream" speech and his own historic address, 45 years to the day later. I say 'just do it.'
Charlie Crist is all over the place. He's for offshore drilling, now that he's no longer against, it, he's green, green, GREEN-ish! ... and he's going to single-handedly save the Everglades. Huh?
Two sides that rarely agree on anything celebrated Tuesday a ''monumental'' but still tentative $1.7 billion buyout that would put the nation's largest sugar grower out of business in six years but fill a gaping hole in Florida's long-stalled Everglades restoration.
The deal, expected to be final by Nov. 30, is good for the environment -- the nearly 300 square miles of sugar land is ''the holy grail,'' one Everglades advocate said. And it's good for U.S. Sugar Corp., which will get $1.7 billion and six years of rent-free operations with the state as its landlord.
In return, Florida gets a chance to reinvigorate the stalled restoration of the Everglades, end years of bickering over pollution by ''Big Sugar'' and -- years from now -- get more much-needed clean water flowing into the River of Grass.
''I can envision no better gift to the Everglades, or the people of Florida, than to place in public ownership this missing link that represents the key to true restoration,'' Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday, likening the announcement to the creation of America's first national park, Yellowstone.
Now, skeptics will say that Charlie is just covering his backside, which he has been waving in the general direction of John McCain lately, in hopes of becoming his running-mate. But the Herald says the deal has been in the works for months. Environmentalists are thrilled, though Democrats are still throwing rocks. If you're very quiet, you can almost hear them plunking into Lake Okeechobee...
(Palm Beach Post) ... Crist, a Republican, said it was "just a coincidence" that news of the state's pending purchase of U.S. Sugar came a week after he shook a political powder keg by announcing his willingness to reexamine the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling.
But the timing produced a mix of reactions from Democrats and environmentalists Tuesday.
House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach called Crist's announcement "potentially historic." The Florida Democratic Party, meanwhile, issued a news release asking whether Crist wanted to buy 300 square miles in the Everglades to open it up for drilling.
"After last week, any environmental initiative pitched by Crist now must be received with guarded skepticism," party spokesman Mark Bubriski wrote.
Last week, Crist said he supported a plan from Republican presidential candidate John McCain to let states decide whether to lift the offshore drilling moratorium.
He said studying the Everglades for drilling is not an option.
But if he has switched positions on offshore drilling because he said it might help cut gas prices, could pressure at the pump reach such a point that drilling the Everglades would be viable?
"I'm not willing to go there," Crist said Tuesday. "I think we took a pretty bold step last week. Let's go one week at a time here.
Yeah, don't go there, governor...
Back to the proposal, and the Miami Herald:
Under the proposal, U.S. Sugar would sell its 187,000 acres of sugar fields to the South Florida Water Management District but continue farming for another six years, or possibly more if both sides agree, before shutting down.
The purchase also covers 200 miles of railroad, two refineries and literally all company assests, Buker said. ``It includes the half-eaten pastrami sandwich in the refrigerator.''
The district, which oversees Everglades restoration for the state, then hopes to swap tracts with other growers to create a massive swath south of Lake Okeechobee that wouldn't necessarily recreate a natural ''flow way'' to marshes but could target restoration's two biggest problems: There isn't water to revive the parched River of Grass, and what there is remains too polluted.
No one has drawn up specific plans yet, but a likely scenario involves massively expanding reservoirs and the 44,000 acres of treatment marshes that the state is building, at a cost of more than $1.2 billion.
Where's the money coming from? Most of it already resides in the Water Management District, as part of what was supposed to be a 50/50 partnership with the Bush administration. Shockingly, the feds have so far failed to pay their share. Bastards.
For U.S. Sugar Corp., the deal with the state of Florida to relinquish an 80-year-old business and give up the world's largest sugar mill was too sweet to rebuff. When the sale of U.S. Sugar's holdings to the South Florida Water Management District closes in November, the sugar and citrus company will pocket $1.75 billion to pay down debt and other obligations and to pay out about $700 million to shareholders.
But equally important, the company will also be able to operate on a rent-free basis for an estimated six years.
As part of an Everglades restoration plan, the Clewiston-headquartered company will sell 187,000 acres of land to the water management district.
Included in the sale are: a newly completed sugar mill, the largest in the world; the company's Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Plant, the largest bulk citrus processor in the United States; and railroads and other buildings.
Property taxes will go away also.
When the sale is complete, the land will be off the tax rolls. Then the Water Management District will begin making payments to the counties with the most significant tax impact, to ease the loss of tax revenue, said Randy Smith, a district spokesman. If the price was right, the time was right, too.
Sugar prices have been recovering in recent weeks. A new five-year farm bill promises to stabilize sugar prices by setting aside any surplus sugar imports for ethanol programs.
''Right now, the outlook for the industry is more upbeat than it has been for a number of years,'' said Jack Roney, director of economics and policy analysis for the American Sugar Alliance in Arlington, Va. Sugar is not the only concern for a company long known as Big Sugar.
Citrus prices have slumped in an industry fearful that Brazilian imports can crush state producers.
''The decision here was based upon the right circumstances at the right time,'' said Robert Coker, a senior vice president at U.S. Sugar. ``This was not driven by economic or environmental concerns.''
The closely held U.S. Sugar does not release financial information.
The company is controlled by foundations and the descendants of the founder, Charles Stewart Mott, who made a fortune in the auto industry and purchased the sugar grower in the 1920s.
About 35 percent of the shares are owned by current and former employees under the U.S. Sugar Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
Coker said there were some two million shares and under terms of the sale, shareholders will receive $350 per share.
In case you missed it: the not ready for prime time player
While you were out getting drenched covering the anti-mayors convention protesters ... Joy Reid ... Florida Politics was reminding me why I didn't like Charlie Crist during the gubernatorial campaign, especially during the debates. In short: he's an empty sun-tan:
After all those years of receiving a pass from Florida's compliant newspaper company employees, Charlie wilts before a less than difficult crowd.
"The first reviews are in on Charlie Crist's performance as a high-profile stump speaker on the Republican circuit. It ain't pretty, and it's why the Veep-O-Meter swings backward this week."
The speech by John McCain's potential running mate to Orange County, Calif., Republicans last weekend really helped his party. "By showing unequivocally he would be a complete disaster for the GOP — the worst running mate since Dan Quayle," Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit wrote in a column headlined "We know who McCain shouldn't pick."
"Mr. Crist looks great: … silver hair, warm smile, great tan, perfectly tailored suit of clothes, decent teeth. It's when he uses his facial musculature to try and form cogent sound that he falls apart."
"The columnist said that in just nine minutes, Crist wrongly declared that Ronald Reagan hailed from Orange County and drew audible groans when he saluted Arnold Schwarzenegger — a moderate hardly loved in that bastion of conservatism."
"I would say he was stunned and distracted for minutes, as he absorbed the lack of popularity in this room for the governor," one Republican activist, Jon Fleischman, wrote on a California political Web site.
Crist's support for McCain's new proposal to allow drilling off Florida, may endear him to McCain, but it's not helping Crist's national image. The political Web site the Hotline even suggested it may have sunk Crist's veep prospects if Florida voters recoil: If "taking one for the team" compromises your home-state standing, doesn't that make you less helpful to the party?
The great crhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifude runoff
Some states vow to stop Big Oil from plundering their shorelines, with the governors of California, North Carolina and New Jersey standing fast, while others pledge to throw open their shores to drilling: flip-flopper Charlie Crist of Florida, and the governors of South Carolina and Virginia. The ban is not likely to be lifted by the current Congress ... emphasis on likely ... but if it were to happen, could the tourism wars be next? (I can just see the ads now: "Come to North Carolina, avoid the Florida oil slick...")
Meanwhile, could offshore rigs be a tempting terrorist target? Let's ask Nigeria, where an oil platform was recently attacked by rebels.
Here in the Sunshine State, Charlie Crist's switcharoo on offshore drilling (just what parts of your soul wouldn't you sell to become the vice presidential nominee, Miss Charlie?) isn't exactly drawing rave reviews from the state's CFO, Democrat Alex Sink. Said Sink:
"He's one person, he's one public official, and I'm another statewide elected official who heard a lot about this when I was out campaigning," Sink said. "This is not the right thing to do in Florida. I don't want those people in Washington to think all of a sudden the people in Florida support oil drilling off our coast."
Sink said she was "stunned" when she heard the news. "The more I thought about it, the angrier I got," said Sink, the only Democrat to sit on Florida's three-person Cabinet.
But that doesn't mean that if they could, lawmakers in Florida and other states won't go for the drills. As one Florida tourism official put it, with gas prices rising, the anti-drilling armor is cracking...
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, once "joined at the hip" with Sen. Bill Nelson when it comes to opposing offshore oil drilling, told reporters at the Capitol today he's inclined to support John McCain's bid to lift the decades-old coastline drilling ban.
He said that if McCain's plan embraces the 2006 compromise that he and Nelson struck -- giving Florida a 125-mile buffer -- "the rest of it is something I can probably live with...I think it's about providing enough resources where the states want to do it and permit it."
Of course, Melly Mel isn't alone in showing off his version of the Florida flip: Miss Charlie, you're up!
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist dropped his long-standing support for the federal government's moratorium on offshore drilling Tuesday and endorsed Sen. John McCain's proposal to let states decide for themselves.
The governor said he reversed his position because of rising fuel prices and states rights.
"I mean, let's face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering," Crist said. "And my heart bleeds for them."
Yes, I can see it bleeding through your perfectly pressed shirt ... I wonder why Crist the Rock has suddenly become Crist the oil man...
Crist is considered a possible running mate for McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee.
Ah, it all starts making sense. Well, I still have my memories...
Just last year Crist had urged federal lawmakers to reject legislation, which they did, that would have allowed drilling as close as 45 miles off Florida's beaches. He also supported the moratorium during his 2006 campaign for governor.
Most Florida politicians historically have opposed drilling because they fear it would harm the state's beaches that are so vital to its tourism economy.
They also have been worried drilling would interfere with weapons testing and training in and over the Gulf of Mexico by Florida military bases.
And all of this has the Florida Democratic Party breaking out your father's old scold book:
Democrats also argued additional offshore drilling would not affect prices set on the world market.
"It would only increase oil companies' record-breaking profits," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski.
He compared Crist's reversal to his recent proposal for a temporary reduction of Florida gasoline taxes after McCain made a similar proposal at the national level. Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, criticized it as a campaign gimmick.
"If John McCain jumps off a cliff, will Charlie Crist jump, too?" Bubriski said.
Silly Mark, of COURSE he would ... now ... McCain's just a Senator. But if Mac were to get into the White House, Miss Charlie not only would refrain from jumping after McCain, he'd immediately start planning the state funeral down to the last flamingo-shaped napkin and get his decorator to the West Wing faster than you can say "George Takei!"
When gay men get married, to women, I mean ... it's usually an indication that they are looking for something personal, emotional or professional that society does not readily offer to openly homosexual men. It can also be a sign that they either have a truly good female friend who is willing to give up the possibility of a satisfying sexual an demotion life in order to be married, and participate in life's relationship super bowl, or they are willing to lie to a really naive or clueless woman.
When a gay politician gets married, it usually indicates that he is highly ambitious and desires to put himself in a position to move up the power ladder, say ... by making himself a more appealing choice for vice president, for instance, since America requires only two things of their presidents (or vice presidents): that they be really visible Christians, and that they be married (to a woman). Everything else (a brain, for instance,) is clearly optional (oh, and a third thing, we want them to be the kind of guy we'd have a beer with, assuming we have the remotest possibility of having a beer with a multi-millionaire...) http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif Oh, and Charlie Crist has a girlfriend who sources say might be "the one!"
There's a cheeky girl, Miss Charlie... cheeky indeed...
Florida Governor Charlie Crist (who backed John McCain in the Florida primary) and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (a Hillary Clinton supporter) released a joint statement today, calling on officials in the Democratic and Republican parties to count their respective primaries -- the Florida no-ad folly of January 29, and the Cuban-style Michigan race in which Hillary Clinton played the part of Fidel Castro.
Well isn't that convenient?
Now I like Charlie Crist (whose name occasionally makes the papers in its ecclesiastical misprint: "Christ...") He's been a good governor so far -- much better than I expected when i didn't vote for him in 2006. But I think "the people's governor," as he styles himself, is making a bit of mischief. Like any good Republican (and he is that, despite his quite liberal record so far in Florida, and his curious habit of appointing Democrats to key positions and keeping campaign promises to re-enfranchise felons and such...) Crist would probably like to see Hillary become the Democratic nominee, the better to unite his party in the service of Crist's pal McCain (who would have thought Crist and Mother Rushbo would be playing on the same team ... hm... note to self, say nothing more about that...) Anyhoo, for Granholm's part, she is in line with Clinton partisans, and Florida Democratic Party officials, who would like to see the two illegal elections counted anyway.
I have interviewed Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings on this matter, and have been in touch with members of the Florida Democratic leadership, and I got two things from those discussions:
1. I can think of no scenario when the delegates from Florida will simply be rejected in Denver. Hastings all but guaran-damn-teed it, despite his and Sen. Bill Nelson's failed lawsuit to force the vote to count. And if Florida gets seated, Michigan will too. Despite Howard Dean's rather lame punt on the matter today, I see no way around that fact.
2. The Florida party wants no part of a re-vote, especially since there's no one willing to pay for it. Howard Dean has offered a measly $850,000 or so, for an election that will cost somewhere around $24 million. And Crist, in his press conference today, didn't indicate that he'd push Florida's Republican-run legislature -- the same one that moved the primary up in defiance of party rules in the first place -- to pony up the dough, either. Florida is staring down the barrel of $500 million in budget cuts, that are expected to hit schools, fire, police -- everything but the kitchen sink, to coin a Clintonian turn of phrase. So there's no money to ante up, anyway. And the GOP is letting Florida keep half of its delegates, so what 'dem worry? What
So what are we left with?
Camp Clinton wants a new primary, not an easier, cheaper caucus, because she thinks she'll win a primary here (though this time, she won't have the advantages of early and absentee voting that stretched back into December, before the Obama boom began...)
Team Obama is more elusive on the matter, although I wouldn't be surprised if their internals make them feel rather confident that he would at least improve his performance, even in a primary, if Florida were done again.
As to the Soviet-inspired Michigan primary, which gave voters a choice between Hillary and bust, it can't be counted as-is, and the tea leaves say that state would be more ripe pickings for a new race, again, most likely a caucus. And that too, could serve Obama well.