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.
If you were going to quit your governorship in mid-stream, and you were a winger, who would you call? If you're Sarah Palin, add Rudy Giuliani (hopefully he didn't propose to her too much... or drool into the phone about how much she reminds him of his cousin...) Dick Cheney (who apparently discussed the ogre-like family's possible vacation trip to Alaska, during which 'm sure Sarah and her kin will keep their whale guns at the ready...) [sidebar: Jesus, Republicans are creepy!] ... and Florida's very own Charlie Crist to the list. Reports ABC News:
Palin's phone calls are shown on her official schedule for May 2009, obtained by Alaskan Andree McLeod through an open-records request with the state and shared with ABC News. McLeod has filed numerous open-records requests for Palin-related documents, as well as four ethics complaints against the governor and her aides.
"GOV: Telephone Call Into Governor Crist," reads a May 4 entry in Palin's schedule. A spokeswoman for Crist said she did not know who had initiated contact, or what the subject of conversation was to have been, but the two did not speak. "It was a courtesy call. They know each other, both being governors," said Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac.
Crist may have had his own reasons to chat with Palin: to promote his candidacy for U.S. Senate, which Crist launched one week after Palin's phone call. Nine days later, Crist announced an endorsement by Sen. John McCain, Palin's 2008 GOP ticket-topper.
So will the Barricuda endorse the tan guy in Tallahassee over the RedState base's choice, Marco Rubio, or will she "go rogue" again and oppose McCain's choice and add fresh drama to the Florida GOP Senate primary? (Hell, at least their party HAS primary drama ...) The plot thickens...
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!
Three stories over the last few days illustrate some of the reasons so many people are totally fed up with South Florida politics and governance. From the Miami Herald this weekend, a tale of how influence is traded -- carefully:
The two-year corruption probe of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones yielded no criminal charges, but it did offer a rare glimpse of influence at work behind the scenes at Miami City Hall.
Witnesses told investigators how developers hired -- and fired -- consultants to curry favor with Spence-Jones when crucial votes were on the line, records show. Spence-Jones asked a developer to hire a former campaign staffer, and tried to steer another consultant to the firm, witnesses said.
Beyond the commissioner's role, the papers spotlight how private companies try to win votes by deploying the right mix of politically-connected consultants -- while treading gingerly around lobbying laws.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office dropped its probe of the development deals last month, after investigators said they could find no evidence that Spence-Jones received any money or traded her vote for favors.
... Confounded by contradictory witnesses, the investigation unfolded like a children's game of telephone, with the whispers often leading back to one man: former City Manager Joe Arriola. In the spring of 2007, he recommended a Spence-Jones ally for a consulting job with a builder -- then called prosecutors weeks later with his suspicions of possible kickbacks.
''You know, you have no proof of this, but those are the rumors,'' Arriola told Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino in an August 2007 interview, explaining why he came forward.
Over the course of the investigation, prosecutors chased vague rumors of payoffs and cronyism dating back to Spence-Jones' days as a City Hall staffer, the records show. Most tips were dead ends. Some leads were left unexplored.
''There were many inconsistencies -- which is code name for lies,'' said Spence-Jones attorney Richard Alayon.
So did the commissioner do anything wrong? Well, she didn't get caught doing anything wrong, so technically: no. then again, I'm sure it's not easy to get people to talk, even to prosecutors, when their bread and butter is city contracts. If you strike at the king (or queen) and miss, they're liable to apply the guillotine to your head at their next available opportunity. Financially speaking, of course ... But the overall theme of "pay for play" politics -- the all-encompassing search for government "contracts" and for financial gain, often with not a dime going to actually improve the community the money was ostensibly earmarked for, is way, way too familiar, particularly in the Black community, which is hurting like hell in Miami-Dade. You just get the feeling that's the way things are done around here, and that it will never change. That's depressing as hell, and it will also be true if the residents of that county don't stand up and start fighting for themselves, even if that means fighting their own Black "leaders." Read the rest here (pdf). If you're at all familiar with Miami politics, the names will be familiar.
A confidant of former Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler has told prosecutors that he delivered cash payoffs to her from a prominent developer during the late 1990s, according to a newly released report.
Antonio Junior, 51, made the revelations to Miami-Dade public corruption prosecutors last fall -- too late to levy any possible criminal charges against Carey-Shuler because the statute of limitations had long run out, state attorney's office spokesman Ed Griffith said.
According to the report:
• Junior, a longtime Miami International Airport businessman, admitted to repeatedly accepting cash from late developer Lowell Dunn starting in 1997, with instructions to pay Carey-Shuler for her support of Dunn's projects. Junior said he gave the commissioner much of the cash -- including part of $30,000 Dunn gave him in the restroom of a Design District restaurant.
• Junior also said he funneled money to the commissioner after he landed -- with her help -- a piece of a controversial $25 million county contract to build the Martin Luther King county office building in the heart of Liberty City in 1999. The payments continued until about 2003, he said.
• Junior said his payments from the MLK deal to Carey-Shuler started when she began scribbling dollar amounts on small notes. Junior said he purchased so many money orders for Carey-Shuler that postal employees knew him on sight.
Junior detailed his relationship with Carey-Shuler in interviews with assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs and investigator Robert Fielder late last year, just before pleading guilty to his role in an unrelated racketeering scheme at MIA. Their report was recently released at the request of The Miami Herald.
Ah, the good old statute of limitations ... Read the rest of that story here. And if you care to read more about the airport case in which Junior was implicated, here's a story from the Miami New Times back in 2005.
Now, a lot of folks in the Black community in South Florida are going to dismiss both of these stories as just further evidence that the Miami Herald hates Black elected officials, and is determined to take them down, one by one (you often here that from supporters of the late Art Teele, who famously believed that the Herald was out to get him.) And Carey-Shuler remains both popular and influential in Black Miami. That too, is the way things work 'round here.
Story three is a simpler tale -- of what looks for all the world like greed, and county collusion in screwing the little guy on behalf of a rich golden goose. It's long, published recently in Aviation Week, but well worth the read. Here's a clip:
The Miami-Dade County Airport and Seaport Committee meets once a month on Thursday mornings at 9:30 a.m. Present on April 16, 2009, was attorney Willie Gary, a famed trial lawyer whose victories in the courtroom (one of which, against Disney, brought in $240 million, according to a press release) provide him with the wherewithal to travel the world in a Boeing Business Jet named "Wings of Justice II."
On this day, Gary graciously sought a few moments of the committee's time in the interest of saving them some money. "These five minutes could save years of litigation," he said, along with "millions of dollars." His press release, issued later that day, upped the ante, citing "billion-dollar litigation."
Gary told committee chairman Dorrin De Rolle and the assembled commissioners, "Nobody needs this kind of fight" by way of informing them that a fight was what they would get. He was there representing his client, "Opa-Locka Flightline . . . the only African-American owned and operated FBO in the nation." He was there because his client was "not being treated fairly, plain and simple." Gary noted that if an airport receives federal funds, the law says there can be no discrimination. "We don't come seeking special privilege, but there should be no discrimination or favoritism, and that's the case we bring today," Gary said. "We must all operate under one set of rules."
What's at stake here are a group of vendors currently leasing space at the airport, and a big, well-off company, the Adler Group, run by a wealthy real estated developer named Michael Adler, who along with his company, is a major, major Democratic Party donor. The county gave Adler's company, AA Acquisitions, a 240-acre, 70-year lease at Opa-locka airport by the county, essentially making him the new landlord. Now, Adler wants the existing tenants out, so he can do some big time development at the airport, and the article alleges AA (with the county's blessing, or at least wihtout their resistance) is using rather ... let's say creative ... tactics to force them out. Of course, the deal means big money to the county at a time of economic hardship -- big, as in hundreds of millions of dollars. It's a sad story, and one in which it's doubtful the little guys will win.
You've kind of got to feel sorry for Marco Rubio. His GOP Senate opponent Charlie Crist has got all the name recognition, all the money, all the big endorsements ... and all he's got are those losers at Club for Growth, the Limbaugh crowd and a couple of guys holed up in their mother's basements in Davie stockpiling guns (and teabags) ... waiting for the black helicopter invasion. So you'll forgive Marco if he's a little liberal with "the Twitter..."
Dropped a muffin on floor at airport. Was advised that 2 second rule applied but decided not to risk it and bought another one. 30 minutes ago from TwitterFon
No... not that one ...
I have a feeling the situation in Iran would be a little different if they had a 2nd amendment like ours. #sayfie #tcot #nra2:38 PM Jun 21st from TwitterFon
Yeah, that one. Marco? You're not suggesting that you wish the protesters in Iran could get into an actual shoot-out with the military, police and Basij militia, are you...? And worse, you're not suggesting that you generally support that kind of thing ... at the same time ... you're trying to become a United States Senator ... right?
You know, Twitter can be a darned dangerous thing in the hands of a politician... particularly a politician who probably couldn't find Iran on a map, let alone know a darned thing about the place, but who has been set free by social networking software to unleash his inner Limbaugh.
(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.
Rubio gets some right wing love ... is that a good thing?
Marco Rubio has at times, been considered a potential GOP star: the young, Hispanic face of the Republican Party (well, maybe the only Hispanic face of the Republican Party, since that crowd never seemed to really be feeling Mel.) Now, his Senate run has gotten an endorsement from conservative South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint, previously known mostly for his bug-eyed entreaty urging tea partying wingers to "take to the streets!!!" to stop the Obamaian "slide toward socialism." Yes, yes, that should help Marco expand his base... (ahem) ... Says Politico:
The move is not out of character for DeMint, who often finds himself at odds with GOP leaders over thorny political issues.
But DeMint has a significant grass-roots conservative following, and the fight speaks to the larger struggle over the GOP’s tent: Should it be big enough to include more moderate candidates who have a better chance of winning but stray from the party’s principles? Or should it be mainly limited to bedrock conservatives who would help the party return to its socially conservative and limited government roots?
DeMint firmly believes in the latter. A leader of the conservative Senate Steering Committee, DeMint has started a political action committee — called the Senate Conservatives Fund — designed to prop up the candidacies of Senate incumbents and wannabes who adhere to conservative principles. So far, DeMint has backed former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania (he planned to do so even before the moderate Sen. Arlen Specter became a Democrat) and the staunch conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is up for a second term in November 2010.
This cycle, DeMint plans to take a different tack with his Senate Conservatives Fund; instead of simply making donations to his preferred candidate, he plans to ask his 20,000 supporters to help raise the maximum allowable limit for the endorsed candidates — a process known as “bundling.” A person familiar with the PAC said that DeMint is expected to endorse between three and five candidates this cycle.
Is that really what Rubio wants? The name Pat Toomey is almost synonymous with "loser," associated as Toomey is, with the loser-prone Club for Growth (During the 2008 presidential campaign, Toomey even launched his very own jihad, as the then-CFG president, against that liberal squish Mike Huckabee, for the sin of once raising taxes as Arkansas governor. Commie...) So Rubio, it seems to me, has a choice: he can be the future of the GOP, or he can be the standard-bearer for the dwindling, geographically and demographically constricted far right wing past. The bundling, I'm sure he'll take. The poster boy for the Limbaugh wing part? He may want to rethink ...
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.
The retired admiral sounds like he's in against Specter the Seat Saver. If only we had some of that independent spirit down here in Florida, where our primary has already been rendered obsolete by the boys (and girls ... hello, Karen Thurman! ... in the back rooms.) Thanks, Democratic Party. And run, Joe, run!
Footnote: I like to win as much as anybody, and as a Democrat, I'd like to see this state elect more of us. But sometimes, Democracy requires that you have to bother with the actual voters. Had that not been the case, and the voters set aside by Ed Rendell and the other party bosses (who I'm sure warned Barack Obama not to run since it wasn't his "turn,") Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee. Instead, the majority of Democrats made the decision on our own. So anyway, next August 24th, I guess I'm going fishing. ... and I HATE fishing.
And another thing: the party should be aware that a lot of Democrats I know, who aren't "yellow dog" types like yours truly, only hang on to their voter registration cards in order to vote in primaries. If Florida had open primaries, I suspect it would also have far fewer members of BOTH parties. Just something to think about up there in Tallahassee (and in Washington) while you guys are divvying up the ballot spots and doing away with the one meaningful reason to register with a political party in the first place.
You know that old saying (I think I first heard it from Bill Clinton,) that "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line?" Well... Democrats are starting to fall like Republicans. I didn't make the Jefferson Jackson dinner last night (what can I say, my A/C broke, and in Florida, that takes priority, even over politics. BTW if you need a good air conditioning guy, call me!) but I did get the news, via a text message last night, that Dan Gelber, the favorite of liberals in the U.S. Senate race, is dropping out ... er ... "stepping back" ... from the Senate race. (Alex Sink can't be thrilled that what was supposed to be a love-fest for her gubernatorial run got upstaged by Camp Kendrick...)
I'm not surprised. I've heard rumors that Gelber would probably go for weeks, though I'm not sure if it's a matter of fundraising, or ... um ... pressure (he apparently was getting it, including from the DSCC.) And as a loyal Democrat, he probably wanted to do what the party wants, which is to clear the field so the party can focus on just one candidate. Besides, Gelber was in a no-win situation. He is even less well known statewide than his opponent, and he was up against two formidable and enmeshed political machines: the Meek machine on the local level and the Clinton machine, whose obvious star power and fundraising tentacles reach deep into the Sunshine state. Gelber was struggling to raise money, and Meek has the endorsement of major unions and other prime political sources of cash. the "Kendrick Meek for Florida" campaign raised about $1.5 million through March 31st, according to his federal campaign disclosures, while Gelber had taken in just $363,000. There is a third candidate in the race, North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns. Um ... good luck with that, dude. (He had raised about $17,000 bucks as of March 31st.) Whatever the reason, Gelber is out. Meek's camp has released this statement:
“Dan Gelber is the model public servant guided by a lifelong pursuit of truth. I’d wish Dan luck in any endeavor that he pursues, but he doesn’t need luck. Dan’s intellect, dedication to justice and sense of fairness will serve him and our state well no matter his pursuit. He is a friend who puts party first and his message to Florida Democrats that we must unify around a slate of candidates is a powerful statement that I wholeheartedly embrace. Dan is a natural leader who will continue to serve our state with distinction in any capacity he chooses and our party is better off because of him.“
... which mirrors Gelber's statement that he's tired of the Democratic "circular firing squad" that normally occurs during elections. Since he hasn't been "fired at" as yet, I for one, am wondering what exactly he means. And personally, I think the "circular firing squad" during a certain Democratic presidential primary made our current president a better general election candidate. BTW Gelber even got a tweet-out from former State Senate colleague Marco Rubio.
Welcome to the new Democratic World Order. BTW this comes during the same week when Ed Rendell essentially threatened Joe Sestak that he'd get "killed" (politically, I assume) if he runs against the establishment candidate, Republican ... I mean Democrat... Arlen Specter, in the PA primary. Democracy, you've gotta love it!
I hate to mirror the ravings of RedState, but these days, the Democratic Party feels an awful lot like the GOP, which generally prefers coronations to primaries. That said, clearing the way for politicians to run for office without actually having to RUN, is already the way things often work in Black politics from what I've seen in Florida (if you can find me a Black person within 100 miles of here who would dare to oppose a sitting Black politician in South Florida publicly, I'll give you, and them, $100. $200 if it's a preacher...) Congressman Meek has never had a serious opponent since he won his mother Carrie Meek's House seat in 2002, and he has benefited from the fact that people down here are loathe to oppose Carrie Meek, whom I would have to say is the single most influential Black person in South Florida, even in retirement from politics. So it's little wonder that the rest of the party would catch on.
On a practial level, Meek had about a hundred assets that Gelber didn't. He benefits from his friendship with former president Clinton, whose wife Meek supported in the Democratic primary, even as the vast majority of Black folks, including in his district, backed Barack Obama (he was far from alone in that regard.) The payback for that support is obvious: Bill Clinton is Kendrick's most prolific and high-profile, fundraiser. It's very hard, if not impossible, to beat that. Ironically, when pressed about sticking with Hillary as it became clear she would lose the Democratic nomination, Kendrick said this:
"There's a chorus of folks saying 'Oh well, saying let's end this right now... But we're Democrats, not Republicans. We believe in Democratic primaries playing themselves out."
So far, the reaction to Gelber's exit within the Florida netroots has ranged from pragmatic to harsh, (this diary was apparently harsh too, before it was deleted...) and Gelber will likely be a candidate for attorney general (my guess is that he was told by -- fill in the blanks as you prefer -- that he would do better to withdraw, try for A.G., thereby receive the backing of the right money people, and give the party the time and space to fight the big fish: Charlie Crist, or to drive him out of the race, too... ahem ...) so progressives will still have him to kick around. That is sound political practice from the standpoint of winning elections, and to be honest, I don't relish the idea of Democrats shredding each other during a primary. But you'd think that in a democracy, we could come up with a way to have a spirited debate, and then let rank and file Democrats pick our nominee. Hell, it worked in 2007/2008, and while it got ugly -- mostly because the Clintons made it ugly -- we wound up winning the race with a tough, tested canddate. Just my two cents.
BTW don't get too geeked up out there about the idea of Corinne Brown supposedly exploring her own run for Senate. I seriously doubt the seriousness. She and Kendrick swim in the same Black establishment political waters, and I suspect she will be swiftly talked down from that particular exploration. Besides, what would be her point of difference with Kendrick? She supported Hillary Clinton, too, so she wouldn't have that issue to use against him with Black voters. The only difference would be regional, and from what I hear, Rep. Meek has already sown up the key endorsements and money people in Rep. Brown's neck of the woods.
Meanwhile, as things get easier for Kendrick, they're getting tougher for Charlie. (On Michael Putney's show this morning, Meek mused that Charlie Crist might not even be his opponent in 2010. Not likely, but not impossible either. One can only imagine what the Clinton oppo research veterans have in store for Mr. Crist. Meek's best scenario would be to face what he has faced in the past -- a non-opponent. And I'm assuming his camp believes that non-opponent to be Marco Rubio.
UPDATE: Watch Gelber's "Stepping Back" speech, courtesy of Larry Thorsen:
UPDATE 2: The Orlando Sentinel's Jane Healy speaks my mind, though in her case, about the governor's race:
This may be good from a political fundraising perspective, saving all the money for the 2010 general election. But it hurts the voters. Without a challenge from someone within their own party, candidates get away with taking fewer stands on important issues. Voters ought to rebel and insist that the candidates answer some tough questions.
... This could be where the lack of a primary hurts most. It will be hard to tell whether the candidates have any backbone since they will automatically get money from the traditional interest groups. For Democrats, the unions and the trial lawyers are those key constituencies. For Republicans, it's the business community. At least Crist had to run in a hotly contested primary before being elected, exposing his real differences with the conservative wing of the party.
And with no real primaries, you can forget about debates for a long time. The candidates will probably be able to escape them until after Labor Day 2010, when the general-election season kicks in. Oh, well.
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.”
Bill McCollum: the age of access and inclusion is upon us
Now this is ironic. One of the former Clinton impeachment harpies, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has run and lost for Senate more times than anyone this side of George H.W. Bush, now says that if he is elected the next governor of Florida, his administration will be all about ... inclusion ... (ahem). From McClatchy:
"The hallmark of a McCollum administration will be access and inclusion," he said. "This administration will be one that doesn't look at partisan labels."
Access and inclusion ...
McCollum was the sole cabinet member to vote against allowing people who have served their prison sentences to regain their right to vote, a relic of Florida's post Civil War past and the infamous "Black codes." Can we file that under "inverse access?"
He generally was regarded as a lap dog for the banking industry during his congressional years. In 1989, Public Campaign (an open government group) gave McCollum its "Golden Leash'' award for accepting $373,857 in campaign cash from the banking and financial service industries while using his position on the Banking and Financial Services Committee and the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee to promote anti-consumer credit card legislation. Here is a link on the award.
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.
By the time we get to November 2010, there could be a dozen people running for the seat Rep. Kendrick Meek is vacating to run for Senate, locally, there will be a whole new Miami Gardens city council plus a new mayor (all but one, including Mayor Shirley Gibson, term out...) and candidates spilling into races ranging from Miami-Dade School Board (Solomon Stinson appears to finally be heading into his dotage,) the state legislature (who will fill State Sen. Fredrica Wilson's seat once she vacates it to run for Congress?) and on and on. The same is true at the state level, where the agriculture commissioner, attorney general and insurance commissioner -- in other words, the whole cabinet -- looks to be vacating their seats in order to run for some other seat.
Alex Sink, who declined to run against her friend Charlie Crist for Senate, will run for governor instead, possibly against the sitting attorney general, Bill McCollum (who Sideshow Mel Martinez once famously (and slimily) called "the new darling of homosexual extremists" when he ran against him for the Senate...) Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bronson, whom I always picture toting a big gun and taking out drug dealers on a dark, misty dock someplace, could jump into that race, too ... and we all know Miss Charlie is running for Senate ...
Tomorrow, barring a direct hit lightning strike or some other unforseen event, Charlie Crist will call a press conference and announce that he's running for Senate. That's no big surprise, since polls show he would be the instant favorite in a race that currently features not a single statewide name brand. What will be interesting will be to see if the popular politician with the permanent tan is ready for what comes next: the brutal beating he's going to take from both Marco Rubio on the right (for supporting Barack Obama on the stimulus package) and from the Democratic contenders, who are already slamming him as akin to a father abandoning his family during a hurricane, for quitting his job to run to Washington "when the going gets tough."
Crist has positioned himself perfectly for the win: he's still a popular figure, known statewide by his first name, and he's been ideologically malleable enough that he hasn't generated animosity where it counts: in the middle. I can tell you that among my black Democratic friends, I know several who say they will support Crist, give him money, and vote for him. None of them are Republicans, and ALL of them gave money to, supported, and voted for, Barack Obama. Crist is pals with the state NAACP president, Adora Obi Nwezi, he retains good will among black voters for supporting the right of two wrongfully convicted men, Pitts and Lee, to be compensated for their suffering, and there's that lovefest with President Obama when he thanked the governor lavishly for supporting the stim.
But that won't stop the s---storm that's coming Charlie's way. Including the fact that he's about to be outed, yet again... (wife notwithstanding, and by the way every source I have who works in Tallahassee says he's gay, too...) with the full assent of the political right, putting them, ironically, in the same tent with the Perez Hilton wing of the gay rights movement, which is going to pour money, time and energy into defeating him as payback for his opposition to gay marriage and adoption (which they see as hypocritical...) Throw in Florida resident Rush Limbaugh, who hates Charlie's kind of moderate Republican, Marco Rubio and his band of Elianeers who will torch him on Spanish-language radio to cut into his South Florida numbers, plus the right wing of the GOP, the Club for Growth wierdos and probably Jeb Bush and his "devious planning," and you begin to get the picture.
Charlie's in for a rough ride.
That said, my party would be crazy to believe he can't still win that seat. For one thing, Barack Obama won't be on the ballot this time, though he'll probably be called on to campaign for the Democratic nominee. For another, about four in ten Floridians are unafiliated with any political party, and Charlie has positioned himself as something of an Indie. The wingers may own this state by virtue of the headcount in the legislature, but Florida ain't Alabama... well much of it isn't, anyway... so the fight for the center will be fierce. ... and by fierce, I cast no aspersions on Miss Charlie or her peoples.
Meanwhile, there could be another consequence of Charlie vacating his governor's chair: open seats ... everywhere ... (which is great news for Democrats.)
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.
Let me start out by saying that I don't have a dog in the Florida U.S. Senate fight. But do you ever get the idea the Miami Herald is, shall we say, a bit cynical about a certain second-generation politician running for the job? From today's paper:
For Senate race, Kendrick Meek is raising big money from out of state
At a recent campaign rally, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami branded his U.S. Senate bid a ''grassroots campaign,'' boasting of more than 1,000 donors in Florida.
''The more Floridians that we have who are stakeholders in this campaign sends a message, a message that we're here to do business on behalf of working people,'' he told about 100 supporters in the parking lot of a small Hallandale Beach diner.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars from out-of-state corporate interests and Washington lobbyists also have helped Meek -- the only Florida Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee -- emerge as a fundraising powerhouse with nearly $1.5 million in donations. Democratic party officials say he appears to have raised more than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate nationwide.
''When you are in a leadership position like he is, you do develop relationships with people all over the country,'' said Ana Cruz, a senior advisor to the campaign. ``It's a testament to the number of people who believe in him in and outside of the state.''
Cruz notes that Meek received support from more than 800 Florida donors who gave less than $200 each. ''Those are dollars from working-class folks from all over,'' she said.
Since he began his campaign in mid-January, Meek accepted $293,000 from political action committees representing law firms, drug companies, payday lenders and other businesses. PAC donations also came from Democratic Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina and Xavier Becerra of California. In total, 44 percent of Meek's money came from outside Florida.
In contrast, 10 percent of the money raised by Meek's leading Democratic rival, state Sen. Dan Gelber, came from other states. He received $9,500 from political action committees.
Stipulating that we are talking about an off-year election, but just 100 supporters? By Obama rally standards what's that, about 2 people? Another bite:
His campaign calculated that he raised nearly $17,000 a day in the first three months of the year. His total even surpassed Democratic incumbents like Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
At the Hallandale Beach rally on Monday, Meek suggested his aggressive approach takes its cue from the president's record-setting campaign -- though Barack Obama did not accept money from federal lobbyists and political action committees.
Much of that power fundraising is coming from Kendrick palling around with Bill Clinton (they are sharing another "Thelma and Louise" moment at the upcoming commencement at FAMU, and Clinton has been hitting the streets for Kendrick since day one, as have Big Bill's major Florida fundraisers.) And they left out the fact that taking cues from Obama is ironic given the fact that had Meek had his way, Obama would be Hillary Clinton's secretary of state, rather than the other way around ...
A review of Meek's campaign report due at the FEC on Wednesday found he spent more than $200,000 on cell phones, catering, a website, plane tickets and consulting. He paid more than $14,000 for a private jet to fly former President Bill Clinton to Florida for a fundraiser.
Meek's expenses also included $428 on a ''campaign dinner'' at the Biltmore Hotel, $177 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Washington and $149 at Houston's in Miami. ''Some of these are strategy sessions and some are cultivating donor relationships,'' Cruz said.
One of the Democratic congressman's biggest donors is the political arm of Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens-based security company that retains his mother and wife as lobbyists. Wackenhut gave Meek the maximum donations of $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election. Miami-Dade County has accused Wackenhut of overbilling; the company denies any wrongdoing.
Meek -- who would be Florida's first black senator if elected -- also received big donations from former officers of the Congressional Black Caucus and Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. Individual donors can give a maximum of $2,400 for the primary and another $2,400 for the general election.
Cue the Dan Gelber email campaign ... though so far, they've been as quiet as a mouse.
The Florida File: Greg Gumbel kidnapped by infomercials!
In the end, infomercial producers, have you no shame?
When you can't trust somebody whose paying you $110,000 to tape a series of video introductions, who can you trust??? The CBS Sports broadcaster is suing an infomercial producer in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale:
... Paul Douglas Scott, owner of the Deerfield Beach-based Encore Television Group Inc., did not tell Gumbel the introductions would be used to promote products ranging from time-shares to tools, the lawsuit says.
Scott approached Gumbel and his agent in 2007 with a deal to introduce educational and news-oriented programming that would be produced by Encore, according to the lawsuit. Scott told Gumbel they would be producing 2-minute education stories called "Eye on America."
The stories were supposed to cover subjects like health technology, business, trends and fashion. Gumbel was paid $50,000 to tape introductions for one day in late 2007 at Encore's studios. He was then paid $60,000 to record for another day in early 2008.
It wasn't until later that Gumbel learned the programs were actually infomercials, designed to look like news broadcasts but paid for by the subjects of the shows, according to the suit. Gumbel claims the shows incorrectly suggest he personally endorsed certain products.
... Infomercial subjects included time-shares, real estate, cell chargers, water treatment, fiber products, beverages, magnet therapy, employee-monitoring software, marketing tools and yoga.
Don't call it a bailout: Marlins to get a practically free, publily financed stadium ... to have
My friend Tony Romano got arrested. Other than that, not much stood in the way of final approval by the Miami-Dade Commission of a $634 million baseball stadium (in a recession no less) for which the fan-free Florida Marlins will pay just $120 million minus the cost overruns the taxpayers of Miami-Dade will probably get stuck with ... oh, and they're gonna need to borrow about $35 million of their share ... from you. Hope that makes you feel less alone, AIG execs! From the Miami Herald:
The vote was 9-4.
Voting in favor of the stadium were Commissioners Dennis Moss, Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Natacha Seijas, Javier Souto, Barbara Jordan, Dorrin Rolle, Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz and Rebeca Sosa.
In the minority: Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Sally Heyman, Katy Sorenson and Joe Martinez. Sorenson argued forcefully against spending public money for a private enterprise, saying trying to make changes to better the deal was like putting ``lipstick on a fish.''
Meanwhile, county manager George Burgess is wildly optimistic about hotel tax revenues which after all, are going to provide $300 million of the funding ... hey, stop that laughing! ... for the fabulous new venture, provided all those Canadians, Venezuelans and Brits come back for some sun and fun ... (gulp) ... like, in a hurry... So there it is. The AIG guys have to give back their fast cash, but the Lorias got you guys to buy them a new ballpark. Some people just have it...
... But shouldn't we as citizens be just as upset when public money is essentially SHOVELED VIA WHEELBARROW INTO THE OUTSTRETCHED ARMS OF A WEALTHY BASEBALL TEAM OWNER whose team consistently ranks as one of the worst attended in Baseball?
So ... the Marlins stadium passed the Miami City Commission today, with Michelle Spence Jones providing the swing vote, after wrangling a bunch of concessions, including having the Marlins start a bunch of baseball academies and give $500,000 to local charities. There was also an intense lobbying effort aimed at the black community that involved the Marlins contracting with the Miami Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP to promise ... that ... the stadium ... in Little Havana ... will employ ... lots of black people ... but without actually using the words "black people..." ??? I confuse! The "no" votes were Marc Sarnoff, who has correctly pointed out to anyone who would listen that a $634 million stadium that the Marlins will control after they put in just $120 million unless the owner, Jeff Loria dies, sells the team, quits the business, or just flushes his puny share of the funding down the toilet, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag for all the inevitable overages ... okay that last part was hyperbole ... and Tomas Regalado. Joe Sanchez, Angel Gonzalez and the aforementioned Ms. Spence-Jones voted "yeah!"
Should this be an election issue? You bet. Will it? We'll see.
The next round of voting starts Monday at the County commission, which must also approve the deal for it to go forward.
Believe it or not, there are still some Republicans out there who, like the old southerners who have never quite accepted the Confederates' capitulation at Appomattox, similarly can't accept an election that happened more than three months ago. And of course, they're right here in "Flawrida!" First up: a floor fight in the State Senate yesterday between a black South Florida legislator and a crazy lady from Brandon who can't accept that Barack Obama is president. From the Palm Beach Post politics blog:
Democrats and Republicans got into a heated verbal brawl ... over a public campaign finance bill in the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Committee. Some GOP senators railed against President Barack Obama’s reversal about taking public money to finance his campaign, just stopping short of calling the president a liar and refusing to refer to him as “president,” instead calling him “Sen. Obama” or “Candidate Obama.”
Democratic Sens. Chris Smith and Tony Hill grew fidgety as the anti-Obama rhetoric escalated but spilled over after Republican Ronda Storms refused to let the matter drop.
“I understand that some are uncomfortable with Candidate Obama’s faiilure to keep his word and those of us who did not support him calling attention to that,” Storms, R-Brandon, said. “I can completely understand they don’t want to talk about the messiah having a flaw but the messiah has a flaw.”
That pushed Smith, who previously tried to limit discussion on the proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 566) by asking for a vote, over the edge.
Smith said he was concerned that the debate was about federal campaign laws and not the state laws included in the bill.
“Don’t pi** on me and tell me it’s raining. I know what you were doing and I called you on it,” said Smith, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County.
Smith got a reprimand from the committee chairman for his trouble. Storms? Not so much. And Storms is not alone. The Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, is out with a statement slamming Storms and adding this:
Today, Congressman Bill Posey from Melbourne drafted legislation designed to fan the rumors on the extreme fringe of the Republican Party questioning President Obama's citizenship. These rumors are completely false, but they just won't give up. Congressman Posey should be focused on creating jobs and jumpstarting the economy, but it seems he's only obsessed with pandering to the right wing.
Floridians need our leaders to be focused on how to crate more jobs, expand healthcare and fix the economy, not pander to fringe elements. Florida Democrats fighting against these smears and working to elect leaders that will work for all of us.
The Posey funhouse legislation, as described by Politico, is yet another birtherfringe attempt to swat at Barack Obama's repeatedly proved American citizenship. The bill, "amend(s) the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution." But as Politico points out, even had the bill been law in 2008, that wouldn't have been enough to satisfy the right wing wackos questioning Obama's nationality. (Spoiler alert: it's a racial thing!)
Anyhoo, Kudos to Chris Smith, who's one hell of a nice guy, and rightfully stood up for reason (and not peeing on people.)
Filed under: "never, ever jump onto the hood of someone's car". Check out the opening sentence of the Sun Sentinel story:
Fearful that he had rear-ended drug dealers in a "duded out" 1966 Cadillac DeVille with whitewall tires, Abdelaziz Bilal Hamze didn't stop, his attorney told jurors Wednesday.
Duded out??? Who wrote this story, Michael Steele? We continue...
The Cadillac's owner, Sandra Hall, 44, was dragged two miles to her death after confronting Hamze at a stop light, jumping spread-eagled onto the hood of his minivan and clutching the windshield wipers as he drove away.
It gets worse: (the descriptions, I mean...)
Hamze, a native of Lebanon, acted out of "absolute fear and self-defense," Jeffrey Voluck said. "They've got him surrounded like a crazy mob. Fearing that eventually they will break the windows and drag him out of the car and either beat him unmercifully or kill him, he takes off."
Hall,"a big woman," and her boyfriend, Michael Hall, "a big, scary guy with dreadlocks," intimidated Hamze, a quiet, diminutive young man, Voluck said.
Holden, the prosecutor, conceded Hall was upset, screaming and cursing. While pursuing Hamze through a residential neighborhood, Holden said, Hall called 911 to report the hit-and-run and told the operator: "I'm gonna kill that s-- of a b----."
But once faced with Hall clinging to the hood of his minivan, Hamze drove, swerving "as if to get the lady ... off the van," Holden said.
"The van kept going, folks," Holden told jurors. "The van never stopped, it kept going."
"Fear of a giant black woman who with one other person forms a "crazy mob." It's a defense...
TALLAHASSEE -- The act of bestiality is a step closer to becoming illegal in Florida now that a Senate agriculture committee voted to slap a third-degree felony charge on anyone who has sex with animals.
Florida is one of only 16 states that still permit bestiality -- a fact that animal-rights activist and Sen. Nan Rich learned to her horror three years ago when a Panhandle man was suspected of accidentally asphyxiating a family goat that he held by the collar during a sex act.
... Rich's legislation would target only those who derived or helped others derive ''sexual gratification'' from an animal, specifying that conventional dog-judging contests and animal-husbandry practices are permissible.
That last provision tripped up Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard.
''People are taking these animals as their husbands? What's husbandry?'' she asked. Some senators stifled their laughter as Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, explained that husbandry is raising and caring for animals. Bullard didn't get it.
''So that maybe was the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey?'' Bullard asked, referring to a Connecticut case where a woman's suburban chimpanzee went mad and was shot.
The pain without gain keeps coming for the GOP, and this time, it's coming to Florida, home of the fat one with the golden microphone...From Jen O'Malley Dillon, the new executive director of the DNC:
If you're anything like me, then you've had the urge to talk back to a right-wing talk radio host more than a few times. Now you can.
Rush Limbaugh has made waves lately about his desire to see President Obama fail. And he's unapologetic, even though Americans voted in November for the very kind of change the President is bringing to Washington. As even Limbaugh must know, if the President fails, America fails.
Incredibly, Republican leaders have yet to condemn Limbaugh for his destructive comments. In fact, Republicans like Congressman Eric Cantor, a leader in the House, have adopted the Limbaugh strategy, telling the Washington Post recently that their strategy on the President's jobs plan was "just saying no."
The only Republican leader to challenge Limbaugh -- the chairman of the Republican National Committee -- even called Rush to apologize just a few days later.
But we have no apologies for Rush, just a message. We need you to come up with a slogan, in ten words or less, that we'll put on a billboard where he can't miss it -- in his hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida.
Meanwhile, a Dem party source points out that Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer was a big supporter of Steele's going into the RNC leadership showdown (he also strongly opposed the whole "Barack the magic negro" thing...) So does Greer feel good about his guy having to bend over and grab the ankles, as Rush would say? Who can tell... Perhaps it's time to ask Mr. Greer whose side he's on: the side of "failure"/Rush, or the side of the American people...
If you'd like to suggest a slogan for the billboard, go here.
Charlie Crist expects Florida to benefit from his support of the stim. And that's all well and good. He did lend critical Republican support to President Obama when he needed it, and Florida does need the cash. But what's with the nine House GOPers who voted against the bill, and who are now clamoring for stim cash for their districts??? Hm??? From Politico's Glenn Thrush:
We're getting into broken record territory here on Republicans clamoring for stimulus money.
Indeed. The nine co-signed a letter with nine Democrats (all of whom voted "yes" on the stim" asking for a waiver so that Florida can receive the dough. The letter read:
“This critical funding is vital to protecting our schools from budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Because Florida has been hit especially hard by a rise in foreclosures, unemployment, and recent natural disasters, we are experiencing a crippling budget crisis. Now more than ever, we must invest in our state’s future,” said the letter.
The Republican co-signers: Adam Putnam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ginny Brown-Waite, Cliff Stearns, John Mica and Bill Posey.
The Dems: Suzanne Kosmas, Ron Klein, Alcee Hastings, Robert Wexler, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor, Kendrick Meek, Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown.
It should be noted that the Diaz-Balarts, Hastings, Meek and Wasserman Schultz are longtime allies, and even had a non-aggression pact that kept the Dems from campaigning against the Repubs during the last campaign. But this is just unseemly.
Why the need for the waiver? Um... it's the cuts to education spending, stupid... In other words, Florida's notorious, constant education cuts, dating back to the Jeb Bush era, are now biting us in the butt. Florida may get a break, because part of the problem is a significant drop in enrollment in the state's schools. But we shall see.
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%
The best thing about this country is that even with its faults, the goodness and decency of most people almost always outweighs the nastiness and callowness of the few. When times are toughest, Americans pull together to help each other, and to support our neighbors, whether it's helping to put the shutters up on the block during hurricane season, or crying for the victims of 9/11 from a thousand miles away. I suppose that's actually true of all human beings, American or not, but hey, let me have my gauzy, patriotic moment.
A prime example of the fundamental goodness of people: Ms. Hughes and her son now have a home. From the Huffpo:
If you were paying attention to Obama's stimulus push yesterday it was hard to miss Henrietta Hughes, a woman on the verge of tears who asked the President to help her with an "urgent need": homelessness. After the Florida town hall where Hughes talked to Obama, a local Fort Myers paper says she was offered a home by State Representative Nick Thompson's wife.
The house is in LaBelle, the first home Scere Thompson bought after law school. She told Hughes, “Just give me the opportunity to help you.”
Rep. Thompson, I should point out, is a Republican, Expect the wingers to try and use this act of kindness to prove that government can't solve problems, since the Rep's wife got to Ms. Hughes before President Obama could (ah, look! They're starting already...) They do that, because "conservatives," broadly written, believe that human beings are fundamentally evil. Everything else they believe proceeds from there. But the right can't have it both ways. They can't sneer at charity and simultaneously claim that charity begins at the GOP.
An interview with Ms. Hughes (before the gift) below:
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...?)
I'll be on with Ms. Helen Ferre on "Issues" again tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 2 (if you're local) talking about the Ray Sansom (Florida's disgraced, ex House speaker) debacle. Oh goody, our own private Blagogate...
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.
A banner ad right atop the Huffpo endorses Dan Gelber as the "progressive choice"(according to the folks at Down With Tyranny, anyway...) for Florida's soon-to-be-open Senate seat:
With all the ugliness and sleaze surrounding the appointments of new senators in Illinois and New York, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Delaware and Colorado, it's refreshing to see Florida cranking up for a good old fashioned election-- you know, where voters decide who the senator should be. In the afterglow of McCain's loss in the Sunshine State (plus the loss of two GOP congressional incumbents, a state legislature that is turning less and less red every year, and some sketchy-looking polls) conservative Republican incumbent Mel Martinez decided to retire in 2010.
The first choices among party Insiders-- Jeb Bush for Repugs and Alex Sink for Democrats-- have passed on the opportunity. That leaves the race wide open for both party primaries. This morning the hopes of Florida progressives was answered when state Senator Dan Gelber tossed his hat into the ring.
Dan isn't well-known outside of Florida but he is far better known in his state than most local legislators. That's because until November-- when he was elected to the state Senate-- he was the Democratic Minority Leader of the state House. And a very outspoken one at that. Before that he worked as a federal prosecutor, mostly on corruption and civil rights cases. He worked in the U.S. Senate as the staff director of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under Sam Nunn (D-GA).
It's very true that Gelber isn't that well known, and that Meek will have the advantage of Steve Hildebrand's turnout machine (which he used on behalf of Barack Obama in the recent election.) It remains to be seen if the Meek people can turn the Obama excitement into excitement for them. (Personally, I rather doubt that the Obama phenomenon can be recreated for anybody but Barack, but I'll wait and see how they roll it out. BTW check out the comments at the bottom of the DWT post. Brutal...) As for Gelber, he seems like a longshot to me, but then again, in a wide open race, a progressive candidate will have a shot. Another disadvantage though, he will be up against two major political machines: the Meek machine, and the Clinton machine. The former president was in town last week raising $300k for Kendrick. And the campaign, according to sources, hopes to raise more than $25 million for the run. Can Gelber match that with the help of the left end of the blogosphere? We shall see.
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...
There's an old story that George H.W. Bush told the two sons who hadn't bankrupted a savings and loan, that whichever of them won their respective races for governor -- Jeb (dad's favorite) in Florida, and George (mom's favorite) in Texas, would be the one to run for president. Jeb lost (narrowly) and with the loss went his long held ambition to be president. Now that his big brother has screwed it up royally, you'd think the family ambition had died. Not so with "Poppy," who's still delusional, or loving, enough to believe his baby boy -- the smart one (or the chubby one, depending on your point of view...) -- can be president someday (and perhaps restore the family honor???) But apparently, for Jeb, the thrill of running for election, at least for now, is gone. [Illustration at left by Cox and Forkum]
"I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party's message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems," Bush told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be."
Bush seriously considered a run after Martinez said last month he wouldn't seek a second term. Bush spoke with senators, supporters and family, including his brother, President George W. Bush, and his father, former President George Bush.
He said his decision wasn't based on politics, but on his "personal journey." He said his brother's low approval rating didn't factor into his decision, and that Floridians are familiar with his record as governor.
His personal journey also includes business interests he'd rather not air out during a Senate run. Not to spoil the moment or anything... from the LAT version:
... running would have subjected Bush to scrutiny of his business dealings, such as his service as an advisor to the now-failed Lehman Bros. investment bank. And despite approval ratings above 60%, Bush would have become a national target and would have had to devote time during the campaign to defending the record of his unpopular brother.
Jeb did have some parting advice for his party:
Bush said the GOP should cooperate with the Obama administration in dealing with climate change and reforming the immigration system. And Bush -- a fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is Mexican American -- singled out for criticism those in his party who have used harsh language in their opposition to illegal immigrants.
"The adjectives and adverbs used, the raising of the voice and the anger . . . I think is very harmful politically for the Republican Party," he said. "There's got to be a better way of expressing our views without turning people off."
See? Told ya he's the smart one. Devious... but smart. Now, of course, the Florida Senate race is a total jump ball. Poor Bill McCollum, the Don Quixote of Florida politics, will undoubtedly run, again... as will GOP semi-wunderkind Marco Rubio, the former Speaker of the House, who brings with him the "cute factor," even though he looks like a teenager and wants to drill up the Florida coast. On the Dem side, it's all about state CFO Alex Sink, who hopefully won't drag her hubby Bill McBride along on the campaign trail too often. After that it gets down to Dan Gelber. I know, you're thinking "who?" and possibly, maybe Kendrick Meek, who would have a much better shot at it now that Jeb's out of the way. We shall see...
The initial broadcast of "Issues" on WPBT 2 is on now. I was on with Beth Reinhard, political writer for the Miami Herald, columnist Michael Mayo of the FTL Sun Sentinel, and Daniel Ricker of the Watchdog Report, and of course, the lovely Helen Ferre, the host. We were looking ahead to what will make news in 2009. If you missed it, you can check out the rebroadcast on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Madoff scam-o-la rocks Palm Beach ... could Rush be a victim?
Many of Bernie "Mr. Ponzi" Madoff's biggest clients apparently were members of the Palm Beach elite (including some unnamed charities.) Many were members of the ultra-exclusive Palm Beach Country Club ... Hey, doesn't Rush Limbaugh live in Palm Beach? Yeah, apparently, he and Madoff were neighbors. Wonder if they ever shared "the cabbage..."
So why did the rich get taken? Good old fashioned greed:
There had been some warnings: Financial consultants had been suspicious for years about his astounding run of success.
They couldn't figure out how he managed to produce steady returns, month after month, even when everyone else was losing money — and leave almost no footprint while moving billions of dollars in and out of the markets.
"People would come to me with their statements and I couldn't make heads or tails of them," said Charles Gradante, co-founder of the Hennessee Group and advisor to hedge fund investors.
"He only had five down months since 1996," Gradante said. "There's no strategy in the world that can generate that kind of performance. But when people would come to him and say, 'How did I make money this month?' he didn't like it. He would get upset with people who probed too much."
Those investors were scrambling Friday to learn whether they had been wiped out by what prosecutors described as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. The assets of Madoff's investment company were frozen Friday in a deal with federal regulators and a receiver was appointed to manage the firm's financial affairs.
And sometimes, Madoff's investors actually assumed that he was cheating, and invested with him anyway (or even because of it):
For years and years I've heard people say that [Bernie's] investment performance was too good to be true. The returns were too steady -- like GE earnings under Welch -- and too high given the supposed strategy.
One Madoff investor, himself a legend, told me that Madoff's performance "just doesn't make sense. The numbers can't be straight." Another sophisticated Madoff investor actually went through trade confirms in order to reverse-engineer the strategy and said, "it doesn't add up."
So why did these smart and skeptical investors keep investing? They, like many Madoff investors, assumed Madoff was somehow illegally trading on information from his market-making business for their benefit. They didn't consider the possibility that he was clean on that score but running a good old-fashioned Ponzi scheme.
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...
On Wednesday, the Republican congresswoman got a call from President-elect Barack Obama, didn't believe it was him, and hung up on him. Twice.
According to Ros-Lehtinen's flack Alex Cruz, the congresswoman received the call on her cell phone from a Chicago-based number and an aide informed her that Obama wanted to speak to her. When Obama introduced himself, Ros-Lehtinen cut him off and said, "I'm sorry but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks." Then she hung up.
Moments later, Obama tried again, this time through his soon-to-be chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
"Ileana, I cannot believe you hung up on the President-Elect," Emanuel said. And then--yes, you know what's coming--she hung up on Emanuel saying she "didn't believe the call was legitimate."
A short time later, Ros-Lehtinen received an urgent call from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who informed her that she indeed hung up on Obama.
So, Obama tried again and this time he was successful. (Phew!)
"It is very funny that you have twice hung up on me," Obama said. Ros Lehtinen responded by telling Obama that radio stations in South Florida always make these sorts of jokes. Obama said similar pranksters reside in Chi-town.
"You are either very gracious to reach out in such a bipartisan manner or had run out of folks to call if you are truly calling me and Saturday Night Live could use a good Obama impersonator like you," Ros-Lehtinen joked with the president-elect.
Signs of the decline of Western civilization: A seven year old at Pines Lakes Elementary school here in Pembroke Pines robbed another kid of $1 at knifepoint this morning. And you thought $1 wasn't worth anything anymore.
The fat hobbit ... er ... Jeb Bush ... is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate, now that Sideshow Mel has bowed out. Sure, his big brother torched the country (and can't even take responsibility for it) and probably ruined any chance of Jeb fulfilling his lifelong dream of being president (a dream George did not share, by most accounts) but Jeb must figure he can still have a national future, despite the family name. Could he win? Sure. Jeb was a not incompetent governor, if a really evil one. And he probably retains enough popularity in northern Florida, and even in his stomping ground, Miami-Dade, to pull it off. Says Politico:
Martinez announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in 2010. Asked whether he was interested in running for the seat then, Bush told Politico by email Tuesday night: “I am considering it.”
A source close to Bush said he'll be thoughtful and methodical about the decision-making process. He will consider the impact a race would have on his family and his business and whether or not the U.S. Senate is the best forum from which to continue his advocacy for the issues on which he’s focused, such as education, immigration, and GOP solutions to health care reform.
Translation: private school vouchers, privatization and doing whatever it takes to buy the Hispanic vote (a bit of trivia: Jeb's wife, Columba, is Mexican.)
Unlike his brother, Jeb, who formed a think tank after losing his first gubernatorial race to Lawton Chiles in 1994, and then signed on to the Project for a New American Century, is a policy wonk, and unlike his brothers, is not a dummy. His smarts, and frankly, his deviousness, are pretty well known in and out of GOP circles. He even has some allies in the black community, including Urban League of Greater Miami president T. Willard Fair, although his allies don't have broad Af-Am support themselves. Still, Jeb is not without ideas:
In an interview with Politico immediately after November’s election, the former governor said the Republican Party should take four primary steps to regain favor with voters: show no tolerance for corruption, practice what it preaches about limiting the scope of government (“There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican”), stand for working families and small business, and embrace reform.
Bush said conservatives should “do the math of the new demographics of the United States,” explaining that the Republican Party “can’t be anti-Hispanic, anti-young person, anti many things and be surprised when we don’t win elections.”
And more importantly, the Florida GOP probably really wants him to run. The only other "star" they've got down here is Marco Rubio, the young, handsome, Cuban-American out-going House speaker, who is also considering a run. But if Jebbie gets in, he and most of the other wannabes, perhaps even Florida's own Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, would likely step aside.
It's official. The race for Florida's second Senate seat in 2010 is ON. From WaPo's Chris Cillizza:
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez (R) has decided against seeking a second term, a decision he will formalize shortly in the Sunshine State, according to an informed party source.
Martinez's decision was based on a desire for more free time and a less scheduled life, said the source. The first term senator also was an almost certain Democratic target in two years time although those familiar with Martinez's political prospects insisted his strengths in South Florida, coupled with his political base along the I-4 corridor, made his path to reelection possible.
Martinez's retirement ensures a competitive and costly open seat race in Florida. State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, widely seen as Democrats' strongest potential candidate, has apparently decided that she would not run but may well reconsider that decision given Martinez's expected announcement today. Democratic Reps. Ron Klein and Kendrick Meek as well as state Sen. Dan Gelber are likely to consider the open seat race.
On the Republican side, there may well be a push to recruit former Gov. Jeb Bush into the contest although that seems like a long shot. State Attorney General Bill McCollum will almost certainly be mentioned as will state Senate President Jeff Atwater and former state House speaker Marco Rubio. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack also may consider a run.
Why do you think Rep. Meek suddenly discovered his long lost love for Barack Obama in the closing weeks of the campaign ... rather, his love for "just voting..."
The Florida Democratic Party chair, Karen Thurman, had this to say:
"With Sen. Mel Martinez's announcement today that he will not seek re-election, I would like to thank him for his service to Florida and the nation, as well as wish him all the best in retirement.
"Martinez's announcement ensures that Florida will be a central battleground in the 2010 election. Over the past three years, Democrats have made major gains in Florida winning three of the six statewide elections. We look forward to a strong Democrat winning this Senate seat to help implement President-elect Barack Obama vision of change and join Sen. Bill Nelson in representing Florida in the tradition of Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles."
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.
The Obama campaign won Florida with a combination of surging black turnout, significant improvement with Hispanics, and finally capturing the "white whale" of the Florida Democratic Party: the I-4 corridor... From the Miami Herald:
Obama's Florida victory over John McCain came with dominance in South Florida -- particularly in Miami-Dade and Broward counties -- the important Interstate 4 corridor in Central Florida and farther north in Gainesville and Tallahassee.
It was a stinging defeat for Republicans who control the Legislature and governor's mansion and, until just two months ago, were openly questioning whether the Democrat would campaign full force in the nation's biggest swing state.
But hard financial times, McCain's gaffe in Jacksonville, where he said the ''fundamentals of the economy are strong,'' and Obama's juggernaut of a campaign inalterably changed the race.
Obama captured a lopsided share of Florida votes from young people and first-time voters, won comfortably among independents, and managed to best McCain among Hispanic voters by double digits statewide, according to Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International exit poll of voters.
Once a reliable Republican voting bloc, Hispanics have shifted more toward Democrats in recent years as South and Central Americans started swelling the voter rolls statewide and curbing the influence of Miami-Dade's Cuban Americans, who comprise about 70 percent of the county's Republican voter rolls. Obama carried Miami-Dade County by 140,000 votes and Broward County by almost 240,000.
Steve Schale, who ran the Florida campaign, gets a lot of credit for this win, along with a huge team of staff and volunteers (I worked for the campaign for a scant few weeks at the end, but the operation was amazing to behold.)
Turnout in Broward was 693,929, or 69.8% -- still underperforming the state (72.4%) but better than in recent years. Miami-Dade turnout was 68.7%, but that too meant a bucket-load of voters: 854,654. Obama won the state with over 4 million votes: 4,110,174 votes to McCain's 3,910,185 (50.9% to 48.4%). Bob Barr and Ralph Nader were total non-factors.
Florida showed some rejectionism, saying no to taking a provision disallowing non-citizens from owning property (a vestige of the anti-Chinese early 20th century) out of the Constitution and passing yet another gay marriage ban (Florida's constitution already has one.) Proving that Floridians will back anything that looks like a tax cut, the state's voters passed a couple of additional property tax slashers, and rejected a measure that would have boosted community college funding. Go figure. It's Florida. We don't really DO education here...
In Congress, Florida actually LOST ground. Scandal-plagued Democrat Tim Mahoney was defeated, while all other incumbents held their seats.
For all my excitement about Barack Obama winning it all, and especially, winning Florida, I am disappointed that in Florida, we didn't get all of the change we need. For one thing, all three South Florida Republican Congressional incumbents, Ileana Ros Lehtinin and the Diaz Balart brothers, kept their seats thanks in no small part to the refusal of Democratic South Florida Congresspeople (Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kendrick Meek) to help, or even to endorse, their fellow Democrats (they have some sort of pact with Ileana and the Balarts.) Wasserman Schultz gets props for going all out for Barack's election, but this was still a huge letdown, particularly since I'm hearing anecdotally that many newly registered Democrats, including many black Democrats in South Florida, undervoted by just bubbling in the presidential race, and leaving much of the remaining ballot blank. With surging turnout in Miami-Dade and Broward, a straight ticket surge among black and young voters could have helped Annette Taddeo, Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez win.
Overall, it was a great night for Florida incumbents, which in my estimation, is not a good thing.
Ironically, the waves of black and Hispanic turnout that swept Obama to victory in the Sunshine State may have contributed to the passage of Amendment 2, which expands Florida's existing ban on gay marriage to straight couples and non-married pairs of all kinds. Religious black voters, who are conservative on social issues generally, were telling me they planned to vote for the amendment. They did.
Gallup's interviewing conducted Wednesday through Friday shows that 27% of registered voters who plan to vote have already voted. The trend in early voting has trended consistently upward on a day to day basis, moving from 7% of registered voters, who had already voted during the period of Oct. 17-19, to the current estimate of 27%. Another 8% of registered voters still indicate that they plan on voting before Election Day itself. The vote choices of these early voters -- all of whom are included in the likely voter pool since they are definite voters -- skew more toward Barack Obama than the sample average. Thus, more and more of these Obama-oriented voters' choices are being "locked in" to the likely voter pool through early voting, benefiting Obama. (To view the complete trend since March 7, 2008, click here.) -- Frank Newport
Meanwhile, poor Matt Drudge engages in some serious wishful thinking with this headline:
Pollster John Zogby:"Is McCain making a move? The three-day average holds steady, but McCain outpolled Obama today, 48% to 47%. He is beginning to cut into Obama's lead among independents, is now leading among blue collar voters, has strengthened his lead among investors and among men, and is walloping Obama among NASCAR voters. Joe the Plumber may get his license after all. "Obama's lead among women declined, and it looks like it is occurring because McCain is solidifying the support of conservative women, which is something we saw last time McCain picked up in the polls. If McCain has a good day tomorrow, we will eliminate Obama's good day three days ago, and we could really see some tightening in this rolling average. But for now, hold on."
Obama is holding his lead in the three day averages, with the exception of fright night, when apparently more Republicans than Democrats were staying at home with their lights off to keep those darned costumed kids off their lawns. Well before you get to excited, Palinites, read the following from Seth Colter Walls:
Zogby has a unique methodology in his polling. He fixes -- or "weights" -- the partisan balance of his respondents, unlike most pollsters. While his admirably transparent and stable practice guarantees a certain methodological sameness from day to day, therefore making any new lead for McCain worth reporting, Zogby's partisan weighting can also raise other questions.
Asked earlier this week what the partisan weighting of their poll currently is, a Zogby aide told the Huffington Post: "Party ID remains at 38 Democratic - 36 Republican - 26 Independent. We have added a point for 18-29 [year old voters], 1.5 for African Americans, and 2 for Hispanics."
Earlier this year, Zogby told me that "party ID is a lead variable, and a major determinant in how people vote. I apply a weight to party ID, and if I see a reason for it to change, I will."
Still, Zogby's two point party ID advantage for Democrats is the smallest of any polling firm. The last four days of the Hotline/Diageo poll show anywhere from a four- to six-point advantage for Democrats -- and a simultaneous seven-point lead for Obama. Gallup's latest surveys indicate that Democrats have an 11-point advantage over Republicans in party ID (including what the firm describes as partisan "leaners").
Zogby's partisan makeup gives even less of a partisan advantage to Democrats than Fox's latest poll, which earned some skepticism, as well.
As for the day-to-day fluctuations in tracking polls, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz says they are "almost entirely due" to random statistical error, or "noise."
The latest early vote and absentee ballot numbers are absolutely stunning, and great news for the good guys:
Democrats are ahead in terms of turnout by 205,205 voters out of the nearly 3 million votes cast. For the first time that I can recall, Republicans are below 50 percent in absentee ballot returns. Taht has never happened, in my memory. And the advantage that Dems have in early vote is nearly two to one.
Total Ballots Cast
Thursday, October 30
Returned Absentee Ballots
Total Ballots Cast
Voted Early (2006)
Returned Absentee Ballots (2006)
Total Ballots Cast (2006)
The electrifying Democratic turnout is being driven in large part by black voters, although it does appear that so far, younger voters are underperforming according to an Orlando Sentinel analysis:
A Sentinel analysis of the record 1.4 million ballots cast during the first nine days of early voting compared the age, race and party affiliation of those who voted early against a list of Florida's 11.2 million registered voters. It showed:
*More than one in five early voters -- 22 percent -- was black, though blacks account for just over 13 percent of the electorate. Obama is the first black person running for president as a major-party nominee, and his campaign has made an effort to turn out the black vote early.
*More than half of all the early voters were 55 or older, with a bit more than 29 percent of them 65 or older and 22 percent ages 55 to 64. Combined, those in this group comprise about 40 percent of the total electorate and are considered the most reliable voters.
*Nearly 54 percent were Democrats, a group that makes up 42 percent of the electorate. And just 30 percent were Republicans, whose registrants total 36 percent of registered voters.
*Young people are turning out in disproportionately low numbers. Though major registration efforts this year boosted their totals to nearly 25 percent of the total electorate, voters younger than 35 represent only 15 percent of early voters, making them the worst-performing demographic group in the analysis.
Quipped University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus, an expert in Florida voting demographics: "It could be that college students will do like they do everything else: cramming for a test, or whatever, and procrastinate."
20% of state electorate has voted
The challenge for Team Obama will be to get those younger voters out. Pronto.
The Barack Obama-Bill Clinton convergence in Kissimmee is airing live now on MSNBC. It's something else. These two men have given about the strongest cross-endorsement by formerly bitter rivals that I've seen in politics (with the exception, of course, of Hillary.) Nice work on both men's parts.
With a hat tip to FiveThirtyEight.com, Michael McDonald of George Mason University has compiled early voting numbers across the country, and they are crushing 2004 totals, with the black vote doing blockbuster numbers. In Florida, for instance, more than 35% of the early voting total is black voters. And that's with blacks making up just 14 percent of the state population. Nearly a third of Florida's votes had already been cast as of yesterday -- astounding in any election year. In Georgia, 36% have already been cast and 35% of the voters are black. In North Carolina and New Mexico, more than 39% of the vote is already in. Extraordinary.
I've seen it for myself here in South Florida, where the lines at polling sites in black neighborhoods are literally spilling onto the sidewalk. True, lines are long everywhere, but for majority black areas to have the longest lines is a change from recent elections, in which the black vote has steadily declined.
... there are three states in which early voting has already exceeded its totals from 2004. These are Georgia, where early voting is already at 180 percent of its 2004 total, Louisiana (169 percent), and North Carolina (129 percent).
Hmm ... can anybody think of something that those three states have in common?
The African-American population share is the key determinant of early voting behavior. In states where there are a lot of black voters, early voting is way, way up. In states with fewer African-Americans, the rates of early voting are relatively normal.
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.
No, not that one (yet) ... the Florida Democratic Party, and Democratic members of Congress and the state legislature push Charlie Crist to do the right thing:
Long lines at the polls prompted Gov. Charlie Crist to sign an executive order on Tuesday, extending voting times to 12 hours a day.
Effective immediately, early voting sites statewide will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 31. Sat., Nov. 1 and Sun., Nov. 2, polls will be open a total of 12 hours, to be determined by the supervisors of elections in the individual counties.
“I have a responsibility to the voters of our state to ensure that the maximum number of citizens can participate in the electoral process, and that every person can exercise the right to vote,” Crist said.
The Obama-Biden campaign in Florida released the following statement:
TAMPA – Obama-Biden State Director Steven Schale issued the following statement regarding the extension of early voting:
“We applaud Gov. Crist for responding to the overwhelming enthusiasm shown by Florida voters during this election season. To this point, an estimated 2 million Floridians have already cast a ballot over the last eight days.
“It is critical that everyone who is eligible and eager to vote be able to participate and have their voice heard. And now with the extended hours, thousands more will have that opportunity.
“We encourage Floridians to continue casting their votes before Election Day, either at an early voting location or by mail, and to participate in this election – because voting is democracy in action.”
And state Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman added this:
"With a record number of voters across the Sunshine State turning out to early vote, Governor Charlie Crist did the right thing today by extending early voting hours. I want to thank the members of our Congressional Delegation, who after witnessing long lines throughout Florida, worked with the Governor to make it easier for Floridians to cast their ballots by expanding early voting. This action will help ensure that a record number of Floridians can participate in this historic election and should ease the lines that have been seen across Florida at polling places. We will continue to work with election officials throughout Florida to make it easier for every eligible voter to cast their votes. It is now incumbent on our Legislature to permanently ease the restrictions on early voting moving forward."
Dems are already winning the early vote, so this is GREAT news. In case you forgot, first four days of voting:
William Arnone, who was an informal adviser to Hillary Clinton, has been doing a monthly assessment of the presidential race to which I have contributed analysis about Florida. Here are his latest numbers, including the updated numbers of registered voters in each state:
District of Columbia (DC)
New Hampshire (NH)
New Jersey (NJ)
New Mexico (NM)
New York (NY)
North Carolina (NC)
North Dakota (ND)
Rhode Island (RI)
South Carolina (SC)
South Dakota (SD)
West Virginia (WV)
Two things I disagree with William on:
First, I think Barack Obama will win Florida, which will add 27 electoral votes to his total. The metrics in this state, including superior voter registration numbers for Democrats, the blighted economy and real estate bust, the fact that many middle and lower middle class white voters in South Florida have left the state in recent years, and the fact that Obama is commanding something like 98 percent of the black vote, and Democrats are dominating the early vote, bodes well for his candidacy. Also, Dems are doing better in absentee returns, which Republicans always dominate. Here are the latest numbers as released by the Florida Democratic Party:
Total Ballots Cast
Dem % Ind % Rep % Total 336720 53.57% 96530 15.36% 195253 31.07% 628,503
Returned Absentee Ballots
Dem % Ind % Rep % Total 316,853 35.13% 127,606 14.15% 457,395 50.72% 901,854
Total Ballots Cast
Dem % Ind % Rep % Total 653,573 42.71% 224,136 14.65% 652,648 42.65% 1,530,357
Voted Early - 2006
Dem % Ind % Rep % Total 86633 44.04% 25545 12.99% 84533 42.97% 196711
Returned Ballots - 2006
Dem % Ind % Rep % Total 65,427 29.56% 26,005 11.75% 129,879 58.69% 221,311
Total Ballots Cast
Dem % Ind % Rep % Total 152,060 36.38% 51,550 12.33% 214,412 51.29% 418,022
Second, I think Indiana will wind up in Obama's column, in no small part because much of the state shares a media market with neighboring Illinois, which Obama is going to win by huge margins. If that happens, Obama gets another 11 electoral votes, for a grand total of 329 to McCain's 209, a landslide by any measure.
The one thing McCain has going for him is that both he and Obama remain below 50 percent in most polls, which means he has a chance to close strong with undecided voters, but because he is behind, McCain has a longer road to run.
I saw the yellow truck guy again this evening, while picking up my daughter from piano lessons near an early voting site. I pulled up beside him and we had a brief conversation. Turns out he's a father of four, grandfather of six, white, maybe in his 50s or 60s. Very nice fellow. I asked him if he gets a lot of attention in his truck, and his response was, "yeah, and a lot of bullets, too." Damn, right wingers are scary... I wish this guy godspeed.
He also added that he doesn't want his grandchildren growing up in the kind of world the Republicans have begun to create. Hence, the truck, and its emphasis on ending the war in Iraq.
That's how many turned out in Miami for the rally on Tuesday. I didn't write it up, because while you, dear readers, were enjoying your day, I was spending 12 hours at Bicentennial Park juggling black press events. One kind of cool thing: BET's College Hill dropped by and filmed a segment for the reality show, which will air in January. The College Hill kids did some fundraising and voter registration stuff, so they wanted to film them attending Obama's speech.
The big issue from where I sat during the speech was the crowding, and the complicated logistics. That was unfortunate, but we managed it as best we could. I didn't get to hear much of Obama's speech, which apparently went hard at John McCain, but afterward, we did a press clutch with African-American and Caribbean press, and I got to sit in the audience for Barack's appearance on "Ellen" (due to my poor seating choice, I wound up directly behind him, so no camera time for me! It was fun anyway.)
Apparently, a Hialeah fire chief was arrested for jumping a fence. Who knew? I was loving the Secret Service that day, because not only were they extremely nice and professional, a group of them also found my lost car keys. Can't beat that!
Meanwhile, the polls in the Sunshine state are tightening, and not in a good way.
That's all I've got on that for now. On to the day...
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.
The Naples News-Press has endorsed Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, despite his ethical lapse at a Sarah Palin rally in which he used Barack Obama's middle name to disparage the Democratic candidate (while Scott was in uniform.) Well, that's their prerogative, just as it's the feds' prerogative to investigate Scott for possible violation of the Hatch Act. But what Scott said long after the rally, in his own defense, might actually be worse than what he did on stage. Specifically, from an October 14 story in another Naples paper:
Scott, when told by a reporter that some people saw use of the name as an attempt to frighten people, responded, "Well, what is ‘Barack Obama?' That's not ‘Mike Scott' or ‘Jim Smith.'"
Well, what does Sheriff Scott mean by that, exactly? "...what is ‘Barack Obama?' That's not ‘Mike Scott' or ‘Jim Smith.???" If I lived in Lee County and my name were, say, Samir Muhammad or Sebastien Ibeke (my father's name) or ... say ... Barack Obama, I might not be so quick to take the News Press' endorsement to the polls, and I might not be so confident of the police services Mike Scott would provide for me.
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.
On Monday, October 6,2008 Lee County Sheriff, Mike Scott in full uniform, spoke at a political rally for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. He spoke of Barack Obama, calling him "Barack Hussein Obama". This was a blatant attempt to conjure images of Islamic extremism and the rally attendees took it as such. They began to cheer after the word "Hussein" and before the Sheriff had made his point. It was the name, and its connotations, they were cheering.
Sheriff Scott has said that he will not apologize and if Obama doesn't like being called Hussein, "Perhaps he should have changed his name." I would like to point out that the Sheriff's middle name was not used when he was introduced. Sarah Palin's middle name was not used when the Sheriff introduced her just moments after he referenced the Senator by his full name. This is clearly an attempt to make a racially charged assertion about who Barack Obama is, based upon his name.
Associations like these, are not only inaccurate as Senator Obama is not a Muslim, but they are inappropriate because being a Muslim doesn't equate to being a terrorist. Suggesting otherwise is offensive to Muslims, and others living in the state of Florida. The Sheriff is a public official, whose salary is paid by the very citizens he offends with such a statement.
Central Florida is home to more than 25,000 practicing Muslims according to The Islamic Society of Central Florida and countless other religious and racial minority groups. It is unacceptable to have public officials who display their disdain for these groups so proudly.
We request that Sheriff Mike Scott be publicly reprimanded for his behavior and asked to issue a public apology.
So far they're at 75 signatures. The actual petition is here.
Sheriff Mike Scott gave an interview to the Lehigh Acres News Star in Fort Myers and issued a statement on what will heretofore be known as "Namegate." First, a clip from the statement:
• Everyone seems to agree on the underlying issue…my mention of a Presidential candidate’s full, legal name of record. There were no accusations, innuendos, untruths, or malicious words before or after the candidate’s name; although many others have made inflammatory statements about the candidate’s character, etc. I did not change my tone or otherwise punctuate or repeat the name with any verbal or physical emphasis.
• “Why” did I use the Candidate’s full, legal name of record? Despite varying inferences, interpretations, opinions, and extrapolations; the answer is because I wanted to, much like I wanted to voice my support for the Barron Collier Marching Band.
• The issue of my status as an elected official participating in a political rally has been raised along with the suggestion that this somehow clouds my representation of all constituents. I have not heard similar concern over the many other elected officials that day and everyday engaging in the same activities across our state and country. For example – Governor Crist is the Governor of all Florida’s people and his support of the Republican ticket in no way implies diminished concern for anyone opposing his political choice. Likewise, my political choices against the backdrop of my proven record of service, in no way suggest diminished concern for any individual or group.
• The issue of my appearance at the rally in uniform has been raised. It is noteworthy that I recently completed my primary campaign and continue my general campaign in the same uniform. My practice has been to wear the uniform at all times and as is undisputed, I am on duty 24/7 and 365. It is also noteworthy that I joined my fellow Florida Sheriffs in Tampa very recently for a political rally…all were in full uniform. At no time during this week’s rally did I mention the agency I represent; however, I was introduced by my official title. Given the introduction and my widespread name and face recognition in this area, I am satisfied that my apparel is irrelevant and the same reactions would have resulted had I been wearing a suit and tie.
Now, about that uniform you say you wear "at all times...." when you say "at all times," do you mean "ALL times, all times? Or just at "sometimes" all times...
Mike Scott (second from the right) at an event last summer, sanz uniform...
In the statement, Scott also goes after the local NAACP for criticizing him, saying:
... The strong support these groups have always provided me is rooted in my tireless efforts to work equally hard for all of Lee County. I delivered the Dunbar Community Policing Office and shocked business owners along MLK Jr. Blvd. by regularly stopping in to say hello during my first term as Sheriff. If their support is so shallow as to wane over one (1) word that was legal, accurate, and void of supporting malice beyond dispute, then I will respectfully move on without their political support and without change to my loyalty to them or their constituents.
Well, I mean he did come by and visit...
Scott says he expects to be fully cleared on the Hatch Act charges, and that he won't be making any further public statements. Except for in this intervew, as recounted by columnist Sam Cook, in which Scott appears to leave his body, where the reason and logic purportedly reside...
"I answered a lot of e-mails and signed my middle name (Joseph) on all of them,'' says Scott, 45. "I don't see anything wrong with calling him Barack Hussein Obama.
"That is his name.'' ...
... Scott, in an interview Tuesday with news-press.com and The News-Press, says he doesn't comprehend the commotion his name-calling put in motion.
"I was told to speak three to four minutes and fire up the crowd,'' he says. "Help welcome her to Southwest Florida.
"That's pretty much what I did. I've watched that tape over and over. I don't see any malice. What I said was truthful and accurate. I did not say anything unethical, immoral or illegal.''
That's a matter of opinion.
If Scott didn't believe name-dropping "Hussein'' would create upheaval in Southwest Florida, he isn't the astute politician who captured 91 percent of the vote in Lee County's Republican primary victory last month.
Again, Scott says he won't back down from his comment.
"I'll never, ever, ever apologize,'' he says. "There is nothing in my mind to apologize for. I just can't do it. That's all. It's the principle of the thing.''
Politically speaking - even for a landslide winner - his remark was one dumb move.
Perhaps no one ever told the sheriff that throwing Barack Obama's middle name into a conversation is the most common tool that right wing talk radio hosts, bloggers and such use to deride the Senator as "foreign," an undercover Muslim, and even a friend of terrorists. (In fact, it was just done again less than two hours ago in Pennsylvania...) Maybe he's the one guy in America who despite being a Rudy Giuliani-loving Republican, who I'm assuming has at least heard of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the like, or even listened to them from time to time, still doesn't know that. Assuming he is that dumb, or that naive, maybe next time, our man with the badge should simply use the names Sarah Louise Palin or to refer to John Sydney McCain III in public conversation, just to balance things out.
Lee County, Florida Sheriff Mike Scott isn't talking to the press. So says Lt. Robert Forrest, Commander of the county's Publ ic Information Office. Forrest, the day after Scott delivered a stem winding introduction for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a campaign rally in Estero, located north of Bonita Springs on Florida's Gulf Coast.
Scott told a roaring crowd, Monday, that there are three types of people in the world: "the ones who make things happen, the ones who watch what happens and the ones who wonder what happened." Then he added, "let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened."
The response from Lee County constituents, and from the media, was immediate.
"We've taken probably 1,000 phone calls during this business day and we've had pretty much a 50-50 proposition," when it comes to callers' opinions of Scott's rhetoric Monday, Forrest said, "with some individuals very passionately stating their opinions, some of them in a calm, well articulated manner and others in a not so articulate, calm demeanor."
Forrest added that Scott has "wiped his hands" of the matter and didn't plan to give any interviews.
Before he stopped talking to the press, Scott was unapologetic, telling local reporters he "absolutely, unequivocally" didn't regret using Obama's middle name, and adding, "frankly, if this is such a hot-button issue, he, as a Harvard lawyer, could have changed it if he didn't like it." Obama's middle name is often used derisively by conservative talk radio and blogs, including by those attempting to imply that Obama, who is Christian, is in fact a Muslim.
"Obviously a lot of folks feel compelled to say something about this," Forrest said, but "he meant nothing by the use of the middle name, he was surprised by all the hoopla and he is moving on."
He might be the only one.
On Tuesday, the Office of Special Counsel in Washington D.C. confirmed to THE REID REPORT that it has opened an investigation into Scott's political activities Monday, which were conducted while he was in uniform. According to the federal Hatch Act, such activities might be prohibited by law. According to the Office of Special Counsel:
The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency. Employees who work for educational or research institutions which are supported in whole or in part by a State or political subdivision of the State are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.
It states that covered persons may not "use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination," and that while "an employee's conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency… employees should be aware that the prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state or local laws."
"Today we've launched a formal investigation into the sheriffs activity during yesterday's political event," OSC Director of Congressional-Public Affairs Anthony Guglielmi told THE REID REPORT Tuesday. Guglielmi said that the first step would be to determine whether Scott was in fact covered by the Hatch Act, including if the Lee County Sheriff's office has received any federal grants. If violations are found, Scott would be notified and advised "how to rectify" the situation, and could face penalties including dismissal, or forfeiture of federal assistance equal to two years salary.
Guglielmi said his office became aware of the situation through "media coverage and calls from concerned citizens." He said the OSC is "taking a pro-active step" to investigate this and many other Hatch Act related claims "before the election."
On the local laws, at least, Scott appears to be in the clear. According to Forrest, Lee County policy states that "deputies and officers can't campaign in uniform, but a sheriff can because he is an elected official." Forrest added that Scott is always in uniform: "he is the chief law enforcement officer of Lee county regardless of where he is or what he is doing."
Scott's previous statements to the media said he was not speaking for the Sheriff's department on Monday.
Forrest called Scott, a Republican who is on the ballot for re-election in November, "a thorough professional and extremely popular sheriff in Lee County who is well respected and well liked," adding that "his track record speaks for itself." Scott was elected in 2004 after defeating a first-term incumbent, Rod Shoap. His official website states that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is his "inspiration," and that he keeps a Votomatic Vote Recorder used in the 2000 Lee County election in his office. The site reads in part: "the voting booth is the sheriff's daily reminder to be responsive to voters who elected him to office. At the center of his conference table sits a sculpture with an arrow pointing outward, keeping him grounded and focused on the whole agency. Three framed words sit on his desk: Honesty. Trust. Integrity."
Update: Lee County Sheriff under federal investigation
It's the Hatch Act, stupid. I just confirmed with the Office of Special Counsel in D.C. that Sheriff Mike Scott is being investigated for possibly violating the Hatch Act during his partisan speech in uniform on behalf of Sarah Palin yesterday. My story should be posted to an online news outlet near you, very soon. The Public Information Officer at the Lee County Sheriff's Department says Scott has "wiped his hands" of the controversy and won't be talking to the media. This one's Developing...
Everyone is paying close attention to the presidential race, but Democrats should also feel good about their chances of picking up two, and at the outside, perhaps all three contested Congressional seats in South Florida, too. Why? New voters, whom you might, from here on in, refer to as "straight ticket" voters.
Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have added200,000 and 300,000 new voters to the rolls since the 2004 election, respectively, not including the last-minute October rush. Moreover, Democrats are out-registering republicans by 60/40 or better rates, and registering many more young voters, so that in in both counties, Democrats now out-number Republicans by around 200,000 voters. Add to that the more than 200,000 Independant voters in Broward and more than 275,000 in Dade, and the polls showing indies leaning increasingly toward Obama and the Democrats, and you've got a cyclone whose current path has it aiming directly at heart of the GOP.
Now for the important part: new voters are more than likely NOT politically conversant. They no nothing about Raul Martinez's past brushes with the law, nor do they have a longtime affinity for the Cuba-centric politics of the Diaz Balarts. They are paying attention, but mostly to the presidential race. Therefore the Balart attack ads are probably wasted on them. What most new voters know, particularly at the younger end of the spectrum, is that a Democrat registered them, they want to vote for Democrat Barack Obama (and that's why many of them registered to begin with,) and they are part of the wave that is poised to was Republicans out of the White House and Congress so that "change" can begin.
Even in a less toxic election year, new voters tend to be straight ticket voters, and once they start with Obama, most will work their way through the ballot voting D down the line. That's great news for the Democratic Congressional candidates, and for Democrats running for the state house. Of course, straight ticket voting won't help the judicial candidates, and it won't help people decode the legalese that the various statewide and countywide amendments are written in. But at the end of the day, I'd feel pretty good if I were a Democrat running for Congress this year.
Under color of authority: Lee County Sheriff a hatchet man in uniform
Lee County, Fla. Sheriff Mike Scott campaigns for Sarah Palin on Monday
Did Lee County, Florida Sheriff Mike Scott violate the rules of his office (in addition to those of propriety,) when he rallied for John McCain and Sarah Palin, and attacked Barack Obama while wearing his uniform? First, the story from yesterday:
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott took the stage moments ago as one of the introductory speakers at a rally here for Sarah Palin. After delivering brief remarks in support of Palin, Sheriff Scott flipped the switch and used Barack Obama’s middle name in order to incite the crowd of thousands of people who have already gathered here.
“On Nov. 4, let’s leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened,” the law enforcement officer said.
Sheriff Scott essentially lent the color of police authority to the implication, by him, and by the subsequent speakers (including Sarah Palin,) not to mention right wing talk radio, Fox News, and the McCain campaign itself, that Barack Obama is an undercover Muslim who is aligned with terrorists. And not a few observers have noted that the McCain campaign is subtly dipping into racist sentiment as well, attempting to scare working class white voters about Obama's "exoticism." (There was a time when race baiting in full uniform wasn't all that uncommon for police officers in the American south, which makes the tone of Scott's appearance all the more ... well ... troubling.) Do the people Scott "protects and serves" in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, Naples, Punta Gorda and other cities on the Gulf Coast, which I'm assuming includes at least a few black people and which does include more than 95,000 Democrats, feel comfortable with the apolitical and fair disposition of his authority today?
And while the campaign attempted to distance itself ever so slightly from the remarks, they aren't much worse than what John McCain's running mate has been saying in her stump speech about Obama "palling around with terrorists," (which is funny coming from a woman who pals around with her Alaskan separatist hubby...) including the remarks she made after Scott and a talk radio host were done introducing her.
A bit about Scott, from the Lee County Sheriff's website:
Small details in Scott’s office are telling. At one corner sits a Votomatic Vote Recorder used in the 2000 Lee County election. The voting booth is the sheriff’s daily reminder to be responsive to voters who elected him to office.At the center of his conference table sits a sculpture with an arrow pointing outward, keeping him grounded and focused on the whole agency. Three framed words sit on his desk: Honesty. Trust. Integrity.
The new sheriff’s first experience with law enforcement came in 1986 as a probation officer. He joined the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in 1988, serving as a public information officer and Southwest Florida CrimeStoppers coordinator until he resigned in April 2003 to run for sheriff. He also served as a motorcycle deputy in the Traffic Unit. His accolades include being named the 2003 Law Enforcement Coordinator of the Year by the Southeastern CrimeStoppers Association.
He didn’t always want to be in law enforcement, though. Scott had intended on becoming a dentist until advanced chemistry classes at University of South Florida made him think otherwise. He earned an undergraduate degree in political science instead. He also considered general contracting, following his father’s profession, but an economic downturn during that time pointed him in a different direction. Scott later earned his master of business administration degree from IMPAC University.
For inspiration, the sheriff looks to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who Time Magazine named 2001 person of the year for his leadership in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Scott also admires the leadership of Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Well, he keeps a memento of the 2000 election (though he wasn't elected until 2004) and callsh Rudy Giuliani his inspiration ... no wonder this guy behaves like a BrownShirt...
“I absolutely, unequivocally don’t regret saying it,” Scott said. “In order to be a speaker at this event, I had to give my full name — Michael Joseph Scott — to the Secret Service, even though I’m the sheriff of Lee County. So why would I apologize? Is there some kind of double standard here where I have to give my full name, but I can’t use his?”
... “I just wanted to use his full name,” Scott said. “And frankly, if this is such a hot-button issue, he, as a Harvard lawyer, could have changed it if he didn’t like it.”
Scott, who was wearing his uniform, said he was representing his own views, not his office.
He defended making those comments while in uniform, though.
“That’s what I wear every day,” Scott said. “That’s what I wore to the McCain rally in Tampa with my fellow sheriffs. But at no point did I say I was speaking on behalf of the sheriff’s office.”
I see. Well while I'm waiting for the Lee County Public Information Office to call me back regarding the ruless about campaigning while in uniform, perhaps we should take a look at a little thing called the Hatch Act. What's that, you ask?
The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency. Employees who work for educational or research institutions which are supported in whole or in part by a State or political subdivision of the State are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.
Employees of private nonprofit organizations are covered by the Hatch Act only if the statute through which the organization receives its federal funds contains language which states that the organization shall be considered to be a state or local agency for purposes of the Hatch Act, e.g., Headstart and Community Service Block Grant statutes.
An employee’s conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency. Additionally, employees should be aware that the prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state or local laws.
... Covered state and local employees may not-
be candidates for public office in a partisan election
use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination
directly or indirectly coerce contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate
So did Sheriff Scott commit a violation? I'm not an attorney, but maybe one should look into it.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida Republican leaders hastily convened a top secret meeting this week to grapple with Sen. John McCain's sagging performance in this must-win state.
The inner workings of turmoil sound a lot like what you normally hear about Florida Democrats...
One of the concerns has been the relationship between grass roots volunteers across the state and far fewer paid campaign staffers. Complaints range from not getting yard signs quickly enough to knowing who will speak at events and overall manpower coordination.
"The biggest challenge is communication," said state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who is involved in the campaign but was not at the meeting. She said the Broward County effort is running smoothly but that her overall impression is that state campaign officials are somewhat limited due to national directives.
This friction and fretting goes on all the time in stressful campaigns, and especially when one side's candidate has hit a rough patch, as McCain has. Buzz Jacobs, the campaign's Southeast regional director, who sat in on the meeting, denied any tension and declined comment.
McCain supporter and former Republican Party of Florida chairman Tom Slade said he's been hearing rumblings over the past few weeks that the campaign is not fully utilizing volunteers, though he said that was not the case in Jacksonville.
"I get the sense that on the statewide basis, the grass roots Republicans don't quite feel like they have a natural fit within the McCain organization," Slade said.
As for the polls, they are alarming for Republicans both because they represent a reversal of just a month ago, and because the GOP goes into this election with 1) a housing crisis in which Florida is Ground Zero, and 2) a growing registration gap with Democrats. The offending numbers:
• Real Clear Politics average of all Florida polls: Obama up by 3 percentage points.
Pollsters are blaming the Wall Street meltdown, which Qpac called a "dagger in McCain's heart," and the seeping of the air out of the Sarah Palin balloon. But unless McCain has a fix for Florida's careening housing crisis up his sleeve, it's going to be a long 33 or so days.
Maybe "what's your favorite burger?" wasn't the best daily topic selection ...
The transformation of South Florida talk radio into an all-syndicated affair is nearly complete. The arguably bad, bland, inexplicable and let's face it, unlistenable, and yet refreshingly local, Footy Show has been shown the door by Clear Channel/WIOD. The 'splanation will sound familiar:
WIOD program director Ken Charles, who put Footy on, said he rooted for the show. "Footy is a true pro and he gave it his best but the ratings just weren't there."
Footy, whose real name is John Kross, had come out of retirement after 32 years as the wing-man to a guy named Kenny on FM radio, to do the show (and I hear he got one hell of a payday.) He now joins Jim Defede and his former producer, Nicole Sandler (who was no Randi Rhodes, but who at least was local, too...) in the dustbin of South Florida local talk history. The last man standing is the shrill, GOP hack Tod Shnitt, who technically is a syndicated show too, now that he's with Jones Radio Network.
Don't ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for local talk radio...
John McCain's teeth are going to fall out if he clenches them like I think he's gonna clench them after this... Quinnipiac's new polling justifies the internal confidence of the Obama campaign about Florida:
No one has been elected President since 1960 without taking two of these three largest swing states in the Electoral College. Results from the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University polls conducted before and after the debate show:
Florida: Obama up 49 - 43 percent pre-debate and 51 - 43 percent post-debate;
Ohio: Obama up 49 - 42 percent pre-debate and 50 - 42 percent post-debate;
Pennsylvania: Obama ahead 49 - 43 percent pre-debate and 54 - 39 percent post-debate. Pre-debate surveys ended at 8 p.m. Friday with post-debate surveys Saturday-Monday.
More than 84 percent of voters in each state say the debate did not change their mind. But by margins of 13 to 17 percent, voters in each state say Obama did a better job in the debate. And by margins of 15 to 27 percent, independent voters in each state say Obama won.
"It is difficult to find a modern competitive presidential race that has swung so dramatically, so quickly and so sharply this late in the campaign. In the last 20 days, Sen. Barack Obama has gone from seven points down to eight points up in Florida, while widening his leads to eight points in Ohio and 15 points in Pennsylvania," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"Sen. John McCain has his work cut out for him if he is to win the presidency and there does not appear to be a role model for such a comeback in the last half century," Brown added.
"Sen. McCain's problem is not with this or that demographic group. Although he still leads among white men, albeit by a smaller margin, his problems are across the electorate.
"Sen. Obama clearly won the debate, voters say. Their opinion of Gov. Sarah Palin has gone south and the Wall Street meltdown has been a dagger to McCain's political heart. Roughly a third of voters, and almost as large a share of the key independent vote, say McCain did more harm than good in trying to resolve the financial crisis, and the share of voters who see the economy as the top issue has risen from roughly half to six in ten."
President Bush's approval rating doesn't crack 25% in any of the three key swing states: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, McCain only holds five-point leads with white voters and white men in the Sunshine State, and Obama has opened up a 20 ... that's TWENTY point lead among women in the state.
And yet, John McCain could still win this election. How? It's not pretty, but he has to hope that there are enough of three groups in key states to pull things out for him:
1) Republican partisans 2) Evangelicals who think Obama is the Antichrist; and 3) Racist white people
It's not pretty, but that's what it's come down to. Having demonstrated his erratic temperament, inability to lead his own party, fecklessness with the country's interests versus his own, and his utter recklessness -- in short, his unfitness for the office of president, and with George W. Bush's economy hanging around his neck like an anvil, John McCain has one remaining hope of becoming president: he needs for there to be more racist, than non-racist white folks, plus enough knee-jerk partisans and evangelical believers in the most bizarre conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, out there in the country -- and willing to stand in line and vote -- to win.
It's almost like he's from Mississippi instead of Arizona ... oh wait, he IS...
Is it a good thing ... or a very bad thing ... that Bill Clinton is headed to Florida Wednesday? This release went out to media from the Obama campaign late Tuesday:
Wednesday October 1, President Bill Clinton will host ‘Change We Need’ rallies in support of Senator Barack Obama in Orlando and Fort Pierce. Due to unexpected demand, the event in Orlando has been moved to a larger venue: the Arena Plaza at UCF. At both events, President Clinton will urge Floridians to register to vote before the Oct. 6th deadline.
Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change has conducted a comprehensive voter registration effort that has registered thousands of new voters in Florida over the past few months. The former President’s visit kicks off the final push before the Monday deadline.
Both events with President Clinton are free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Visit FL.barackobama.com to RSVP. Local rock band ‘Independently Poor’ will play before the rally in Fort Pierce.
So which Bill Clinton is going to show up tomorrow? The one who just oozes with love and praise for John McCain (but little more than chills and schadenfreude for Barack Obama) or the one who gave that barn burner of a speech in Denver? Psychoanalyzing Big Bill and his wife have become the "fantasy baseball" for political junkies, and the betting is, Bill really wants to see Obama lose, but in a way that makes it look like he wanted to see Obama win. ... Tomorrow will tell whether Team Obama erred by bringing him here. By the way, Clinton is headed right into I4 territory -- the part of the state Obama must turn blue in order to carry the state without miracle turnout from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. His job may not exactly be to "hustle up the cracker vote," as he so inartfully put it last week, but it's something very much like that...
Not yet publicly released numbers from the Florida Elections Division suggest Barack Obama has good reason to spend that $39 million.
As of September 1, Florida Democrats picked up a net gain of 287,770 new voters since January, to the Florida GOP's 112,290, less than 100,000 voters shy of John Kerry's 2004 margin of defeat (with two months to go from September 1 to October 6.) That means Democrats have registered 58.7 percent of the new voters on the rolls, including those who switched parties or were purged, to the Republicans' 22.9 percent (the other 18 percent or so are Independents.)
But wait, there's more:
80% of the 109,361 newly registered Black voters registered as Dems, vs. 3.5% Republicans.
46% of the 125,685 newly registered Hispanics are Democrats, versus 19% Republicans.
Only among White voters do the parties achieve parity, with Democrats getting 33% of the 301,020 new voters and Republicans getting 36%. In other words, white voters are a wash...
Except that they really aren't ...
By age, Democrats also have big advantages:
45% of the 336,997 voters under age 35 who registered to vote through September registered as Democrats versus 21.7% who signed up as Republicans.
In the middle age category, Dems got 44.6% of new registrants 35-65, versus 24.9% for the GOP. In fact, more voters registered to be Independents (30.5%) than chose to be Republicans. (Ditto for young voters, 33.5% of whom regestered NPA.)
And even most voters over 65 who are newly registered chose to become Democrats: 40.9% to 33.6%.
What does this mean? It means that the majority of new voters -- nearly enough to close John Kerry's losing margin of 380,000 votes, are now in the Democratic Party, and many of them are now in the Obama campaign's database, ready to be pushed to the polls. The Republicans could still pull a big turnout like they did in 2004, or they could be counting on grabbing the lion's share of hte Independent vote, but Democrats are more than in a position to win this state, based on simple addition.
I have been a longtime critic of the Florida Democratic Party's eternal pursuit of what I call the "white whale" of winning the I-4 corridor: the part of Florida that stretches north from around Orlando to Tampa-St. Petersberg. When the party held a conference call earlier in the year to talk general strategy, and announced that once again, the Democrats would run an I-4, rather than a South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) based strategy, and that the Obama campaign would be based in Tampa, I hung my head in distress. Particularly given the party's lack of success with this strategy in any election since I moved here (Kerry lost Florida by 380,000 votes and went down swearing he could cut into the military vote in Tampa, and Jim Davis lost the governor ship to the tan guy otherwise known as NOT GETTING MARRIED ANYTIME SOON since he's not the v.p., swearing that he could bring home his home city: Tampa.)
But something is looking mighty different this time around.
First, the Obama campaign is being managed here by Steve Schale, probably the only Democrat in the last ten years who truly knows how to win in Florida. Schale speaks "evangelical," since he is one, and he is credited with helping Democrats pick up seats statewide in 2006. If his Tampa-centric strategy works, he will officially be labeled a supah genious.
Second, the Obama campaign is seriously, seriously competing for this state. They've pledged $39.3 million in spending -- more than they've budgeted in Ohio, and they are making a serious push to hold the Jewish vote, erode the Hispanic vote (complete with a new round of Spanish language TV ads running this week,) and turn out the black vote (complaints by some local black pols and preachers about the lack of spending money notwithstanding.)
Third, the army of Obamatrons roaming the state appears to be having an effect. The Dems have picked up a more than two-to-one new voter registration advantage, with about 250,000 voters registered as Dems through July versus about 98,000 for the GOP. If they improved on that in August and September, it's a good look, even in a state where most Democrats north of Jacksonville vote Republican.
Fourth. Sheer commitment. Obama and his team have been blanketing the state over the last two weeks, and guess where the Senator is doing his debate prep? Tampa. Hell, even I got an interview!
Now, to the polls.
And this one's a stunner.
Mason-Dixon, one of the best, but also one of the most Republican-leaning, of the Florida polls, actually shows Barack Obama opening up a slight lead in the Sunshine State (per Chuckie T and company:)
Yet inside those numbers, Obama leads McCain in the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Polk counties) by a 49%-43% margin. Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker says the key to winning Florida statewide is usually through Tampa Bay, and Obama’s six-point lead in the area explains why he’s ahead in this poll. Moreover, outside of Nevada, there is probably not another state that has been hurt more by the housing and credit crunch, and that may be benefiting Obama right now.
Also potentially troublesome for McCain in this must-win GOP state, he leads by just six among Hispanics (49%-43%), which in Florida is made up of a majority of Cubans. (If Obama does pick off younger Cubans, he may close the overall gap thanks to his large lead among non-Cuban Hispanics in the I-4 corridor.)
Also, McCain's four-point lead among seniors (48%-44%) is not as big as he needs it to be to offset the electorate-changing demographics among blacks and young voters. ...
Those are four big "yikes!" if you're John McCain.
A bit more on the poll, from the Miami Herald:
... voters prefer Obama by a slight margin to handle the economy (49-44) and to reform government (48-44). But McCain trounces Obama on the question of who's best to handle national security: 57-39. Military voters favor McCain 57-39, those who haven't served prefer Obama 49-42.
Also keeping McCain strong: white support (he edges Obama 50-42) and support among Hispanics (49-43), a crucial swing-voting demographic.
Obama has a decisive lead among black voters (88-5) and barely leads among women voters, 49-41. Past election exit polls show that the Republican who captures 45 percent or more of the woman vote generally wins the state.
The biggest swing in the poll: name-recognition for Republican vp pick Sarah Palin. About 75 percent of voters didn't recognize her name in the last Mason-Dixon poll in August. Now, only 2 percent don't recognize her. About 45 percent of voters view her favorably and 31 percent unfavorably. That compares to Joe Biden's fav/unfav of 39-21.
Palin has also had a bigger effect on her ticket than Biden has on his. About 60 percent of voters say Biden's pick had no effect on their vote, compared to 37 percent for Palin. And 36 percent say they're more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin, while 23 percent say it made them less likely. Biden's more likely/less likely numbers: 21-15
For Obama to be holding onto 42 percent of the white vote isn't a bad look in this state. And if he can hold onto women, and get black turnout to put some muscle behind his commanding lead there, he really could win Florida, and this coming from someone who wasn't so sure of that a month ago.
BTW McCain is still ahead in the Rasmussen survey, by five points, and he has an average two point lead per RCP. But Mason Dixon is considered the gold standard of Florida polls, and given what they're spending, you've got to believe Team Obama has some internal polls that tell them Mason-D is on the right track.
Incoming! Hillary will campaign for Obama in Palm Beach Thursday
From the campaign today:
The Obama campaign today announced that Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) will visit South Florida this Thursday, August 21, to campaign on behalf of Barack Obama and talk with voters about why he is the only choice for Floridians who want a President who will change the way Washington has worked for eight years under President George W. Bush.
In Palm Beach County, Senator Clinton will host a rally focused on why Barack Obama is the only choice for voters who care about issues important to women in this election. The event will be open to the public, but space is limited. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Later Thursday, Senator Clinton will attend an event in Broward County. Details for that event will be announced soon.
Tickets for the Palm Beach rally will be available at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, August 20 at the grand openings of two Campaign for Change offices in Palm Beach County: 279 E Main St, Pahokee and 2790 N Military Trail, Ste 6, West Palm Beach. Tickets will also be available online at FL.barackobama.com and starting at 12 noon tomorrow at the following locations: Wexler for Congress, 2500 N Military Trail, Ste 251, Boca Raton; Democratic Party Headquarters, 6634 W Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach; and the FAU Student Union, 777 Glades Rd, Boca Raton.
A Florida winger living in a hotel muses about assassinating the Democratic presidential nominee... I guess Dana Milbank would say Obama's guilty of trying to act like he's already the POTUS, with all that Secret Service "protection" and arrests of "assassination plotters" and all. The hubris!
A senior citizen shoots a federal agent dead in broad daylight in the parking lot of a post office a few blocks from my home in the suburbs. He shot the guy in the head as the agent's 12-year-old daughter watched. Her older sister turned 15 today. Their mom gave a tearful press conference yesterday about losing the love of her life.
The manhunt? Off the hinges. There were cops from every conceivable jurisdiction -- hundreds of them -- descending on this area, parked on every corner and stopping car after car to ask questions and hand out flyers. Everyone around here assumed it was some sort of hit -- something related to the federal agent's job. Instead? Turns out to be just another random shooting by a "law abiding gun owner."
MIRAMAR - A police report says today that U.S. border protection agent Donald Pettit died as the result of a road rage incident.
The report said both Pettit and James Patrick Wonder, the man charged with his murder, exchanged obscene gestures with each other as they drove along Dykes Road Tuesday morning.
The report said Wonder, 65, pulled into the Pembroke Pines post office first from Dykes Road. It said Pettit then pulled into the post office parking lot from Pines Boulevard.
There, they argued some more, Wonder pulled a gun from his waistband, removed the safety and shot Pettit in the head, the report said.
As for Wonder? Neighbors say he was a nice guy; quiet ... no temper. No signs that he would become a wanted murderer. He got caught after attending a dialysis appointment at a nearby mall.
This, I'm afraid, is what comes of the nexus between readily available guns, and the common stresses of suburban life -- like road rage. Without the gun, this is at worst a fist fight in the parking lot. Probably not even that, since the assailant is a 65-year-old man with a bad kidney, and the victim was a fit federal agent. Think Wonder would have messed with him unarmed?
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.) |
Hey, did you hear the one about the government-chartered mortgage giants who spent $200 million to buy influence in Washington? About 20 McCain advisers have...
Forget all that talk about "appeasement" and the "Axis of evil..." The Guardian reports the Bush administration is preparing to establish an "interests section" in Iran, similar to the one we have in Cuba. The move is a half-step away from setting up an embassy, and comes on the heels of news the U.S. will send the third in command at the State Department to silently observe European talks with Tehran. Et tu, Bushie? In other news, the neocons will be wearing black today as a sign of mourning. Dick Cheney will be wearing an ankle monitor.
There are two ways to look at this news. Either GWB has turned his foreign policy over to Condi Rice, taking the portfolio away from Dick Cheney and his band of neocon nutjobs, in order to salvage some semblance of a legacy in the final months of his administration ... or, Bush hopes to undermine Barack Obama's foreign policy stances one by one, by preempting him on engagement with Iran, troop drawdowns in Iraq, etc. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether John McCain is swift enough to pick up the ball, or whether he will keep blustering on about staying in Iraq forever and ever and blowing Iran to hell.
Also in the Guardian, a new report says the U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy -- lower than any developed nation and on par with Croatia ... and Canada is taken to task for refusing to seek the repatriation of a 15-year-old kid the Bush administration has locked up in Gitmo, and who is seen pleading for help during a videotaped interrogation released this week. From the story:
Toronto-born Omar Khadr's US military lawyer called on Harper to "stand up and act like a prime minister of Canada" and demand the teenager's return.
... Khadr's military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, along with his criticism of Harper, said yesterday that the military tribunals at Guantánamo "aren't designed to be fair" and designed "to produce convictions".
He said anyone who watched Khadr whimpering for his mother and still believed he had vowed to die fighting with a bunch of hardened al-Qaida terrorists is "crazy".
"The tape shows Omar Khadr not as a hardened terrorist but as a frightened boy."
"It just shows how unreliable anything that they extracted from this kid is would be at trial."
Khadr, who was shown in the video aged 16 and questioned after severe sleep deprivation, will have to remain at Guantánamo until he is prosecuted for war crimes in front of a special US military tribunal, later this year.
The liberal Canadian senator and ex-general Romeo Dallaire told Canada Television's (CTV) Newsnet programme that Khadr is a child solider and should be treated and given the same rehabilitation that Canada devotes to other child soldiers around the world.
"We're getting stabbed in the back," Dallaire told the cable channel. "We have worked for years to assist other nations in eradicating the use of children in conflict. But our own country doesn't even want to recognise that our own citizen (is a child soldier). No matter what his politics are, it's totally irrelevant.
Canada's conservative P.M., Stephen Harper, remains unmoved, and Canadian experts are casting doubt on chances for the boy to return to his home country. [Omar Khadr photo, showing him at age 15, from the Canadian Broadcasting Co.]
Meanwhile in the Middle East, Hezbollah supporters are gleeful at the return of five of their members to Beirut, along with the bodies of some 200 fighters, who were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. In Israel, no celebration, just funerals for the two Israelis, whose capture led to Israel's disastrous 2006 war with Lebanon. In the Independent UK, Robert Fisk writes of Israel's folly, and Hezbollah's hubris. On the exchange, Hezbollah got:
Samir Kuntar – 28 years in an Israeli jail for the 1979 murder of an Israeli, his young daughter and a policeman. He arrived from Israel very much alive, clean shaven but sporting a neat moustache, overawed by the hundreds of Hizbollah supporters, a man used to solitary confinement who suddenly found himself idolised by a people he had not seen in almost three decades. His eyes moved around him, the eyes of a prisoner watching for trouble. He was Israel's longest-held Lebanese prisoner; Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, had promised his release. And he had kept his word.
... But it was also a day of humiliation. Humiliation most of all for the Israelis. After launching their 2006 war to retrieve two of their captured soldiers, they killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians, devastated Lebanon, lost 160 of their own – most of them soldiers – and ended up yesterday handing over 200 Arab corpses and five prisoners in return for the remains of the two missing soldiers and a box of body parts.
Read the whole thing. Trust me.
Back to the states, where the New York Times' Caucus blog reports Barack Obama raised $52 million in June (though Chuck Todd pooh-poohed the number this morning on "Morning Joe," saying Obama had better raise that amount since he's not taking public financing. Geez, the media is STILL sore about that?)
Meanwhile, the paper proper reports on how much Iraqis seem to like Obama, quoting one Iraqi general as saying the candidate is "very young, very active" and "we would be very happy if he was elected president." Look for the McCain camp to deride Obama as "the candidate of the Iraqi people" today ... before they have to dial back once the candidate remembers that Iraq is no longer in the Axis of Evil. The same story attempts to throw cold water on Obama's withdrawal plans, however, calling them "complicated" for Iraqis:
... mention Mr. Obama’s plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.
“Very difficult,” he said, shaking his head. “Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: for now, we don’t have that ability.”
... There was, as Mr. Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Mr. Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: for many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Mr. Obama opposed and his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, supported.
“In no way do I favor the occupation of my country,” said Abu Ibrahim, a Western-educated businessman in Baghdad, “but there is a moral obligation on the Americans at this point.”
Like many Iraqis, Mr. Ibrahim sees Mr. Obama favorably, describing him as “much more humane than Bush or McCain.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” Mr. Ibrahim said. But he hoped that Mr. Obama’s statements about a relatively fast pullout were mere campaign talk.
“It’s a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he’ll be able to do it,” he said. “The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time.”
Why do I not quite trust the Times not to put neocon words into Iraqis mouths? Maybe it's just me ... and Judy Miller... Meanwhile, the paper also reports on the phalanx of media stars and actual anchor people who will chase Barack around the Middle East and Europe when he travels there, as opposed to the "in other news" treatment that McCain's overseas trip received.
The U.S. economy and financial system are more closely linked to those in other wealthy nations, particularly in Europe, where rising inflation and the weak dollar are adding to growing trouble. The United States and Europe have "similar economies and share the potential problems of industrialized nations in terms of property price fluctuations and financials," said Simon Johnson, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "And they find themselves sharing variable degrees of vulnerability."
As global wealth has shifted during the past decade, emerging markets have become not only increasingly stable but they have also been claiming a larger portion of the world's riches than ever before. If Californians are rushing to withdraw money from banks there, the situation in Kenya is just the opposite: People are flocking to banks to open accounts. The Nairobi exchange, which lists mostly Kenyan companies and a handful of multinational firms, posted 10 percent gains in the three months ended in June as local and foreign investors flocked to the initial public offering of the cellphone giant Safaricom.
The WaPo also tries to even out the mortgage crisis exposure of the two presidential candidates, attempting to make former Obama advisers and of all things, Clinton advisers, the equivalent of John McCain's bevy of current lobbyist pals and campaign shot callers who are steeped in Freddie and Fannie lobbying cash. So much for the liberal media.
And the paper reports that the Obama campaign is creating a heavy presence in Virginia, suggesting they are serious about winning the state.
The Los Angeles Times reports on newly minted FBI investigatee Indymac's latest problem: rival banks are refusing to accept its cashier's checks, adding a new headache for depositors who have been lining up to get their money.
And the paper reports that a stunning 1 in 4 California high school students -- and 1 in 3 Los Angeles high schoolers, dropped out of school since the fall of 2006. Wow. The head count was made possible by a new ID system in the state that was meant to track students leaving one school and enrolling at another. Unfortunately, the second part of that equation didn't happen 25-33% of the time.
An escalating number of voters registering as Democrats is providing evidence that the 2008 election could produce a wave of support for Barack Obama — and trigger a decades-long shift of party allegiance that could affect elections for a generation.
The numbers are ominous for Republicans: Through May, Democratic voter registration in Broward County was up 6.7 percent. Republican registrations grew just 3 percent while independents rose 2.8 percent.
Democrats have posted even greater gains statewide, up 106,508 voters from January through May, compared with 16,686 for the Republicans.
"It's a huge swing," says Marian Johnson, political director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "I looked at that and said, 'Wow.'"
And here's why it matters: party "brand loyalty" tends to be strongest among new voters:
Michael Martinez, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, said there aren't many people shifting from the Republicans to the Democrats. But the allegiance of first-time voters is significant.
"New voters tend to identify with the hot party at the time. In the 1980s, a lot of new voters were identifying with Reagan, because he was sort of the hot commodity," Martinez said.
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.'
Proving the age-old chestnut that racists can't spell to be entirely true, vandals spray misspelled insults targeting Barack Obama on city vehicles in Orlando, then damn Hillary Clinton with likely ungrammatical faint praise.
Phrases including “Obmama smokes crack” and others phrases with racial slurs were written in blue spray paint on the white city cars and trucks.Other vehicles appeared to have had their gas tanks tampered with.Along with the paint, hundreds of business cards were left on windshields.The cards contain criticism of Obama on one side, and support for Hillary Clinton and her family on the other side. The same cards were left on channel nine vehicles in Daytona Beach several weeks ago.
The vandalism happened the same night the Obama campaign kicked off its Florida organization with parties across the state.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that 24 vehicles were damaged in all, including 23 owned by the city. The vandals did about $10,000 worth of damage, added some new catch phrases to the American lexicon, and according to the paper, for once, John McCain was not ignored.
According to pictures from the scene, the vandals tagged notes such as "Obama smokes crack." They left business card-sized notes that disparaged Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama on one side, while supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton on the other.
The cards also included statements like "Legalize Marijuana/Stop Building Prisons," "Ladies I'm Single Some Girl Step Up" and "How About Them Gators." They were signed by "CR."
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.
Can Barack Obama win the off-and-on red state of Florida? To paraphrase the candidate, "yes he can." But he'll need record black voter turnout (even higher than the high water marks of 1996 and 2000) to get it done. This year, he may get it (hat tip to Marlon Hill). First, some history:
About 12 percent of the Florida electorate is black, but black turnout is inconsistent. In 2000, when Al Gore barely lost the state and the White House, black voters accounted for 15 percent of the overall vote. In 2004, when John Kerry lost Florida by 5 percentage points, that number was 12 percent.
Despite a massive mobilization effort by political groups working independently of the Kerry-Edwards campaign but in hopes of helping the ticket, black turnout in Florida was just 61 percent. Overall turnout was 74 percent.
I remember it well -- I was working for one of those groups... and now the bottom line:
Florida is just starting to get to know Obama, as he and Hillary Rodham Clinton avoided campaigning in the state's unsanctioned Jan. 29 primary. But in the 16 contested Democratic primaries with significant black populations, the black turnout jumped 115 percent. Overwhelmingly, those votes went to Obama.
"I have no doubt he will significantly increase black turnout across the country. It was 60 percent in 2004, and I would expect it to be 72 percent this year," said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, one of the country's foremost experts on black voting trends.
"In most cases, that's not necessarily enough for him to carry a state, but Florida is one of those places that a big black turnout certainly has the potential to put him over the top," said Bositis, putting Virginia and North Carolina in the same category.
That alone can't deliver Florida, but if Obama continues to run strong or competitively among Hispanic and independent voters, black turnout could give him a pivotal edge.
Meanwhile, Obama could also be helped, inadvertently, by eager McCain suitor Charlie Crist, who made good on a campaign promise to ease the transition of former felons to full membership in civic society, including restoring the right to vote (or at least making the process a little simpler.) That change alone could in theory put nearly 950,000 ex-felons (and people mistaken for felons by Kathy Harris' Dickensian system,) back on the rolls, or 9 percent of the state's voting age population (Florida has more disenfranchised felons than any other state, and surprise, surprise, a disproportionate number of them are African-American, Latino or lower income white. And though these are voters who haven't been able to participate, most researchers believe that the disenfranchised would overwhelmingly vote Democrat.) If the Obama campaign and other groups can get to these voters -- even half of them would erase George W. Bush's 380,000 vote margin in 2004.
Sidebar: I can attest anecdotally that at nearly every event we did at my prior radio station in the black community, we had people coming to us or calling in to ask how they could get their rights restored. From the jobs standpoint, as well as from a voter participation standpoint, this is a very big deal...
The latest Quinnipiac swing state polls have bad news for Pat Buchanan and other political analysts who have created a mini cottage industry out of Barack Obama's supposed inability to win over women and blue collar voters in the traditional battleground states, the way Hillary Clinton did.
Not only does Barack Obama lead John McCain in three crucial battleground states -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, and for the first time this political season, Florida -- his lead in PA is the largest of them all. I guess those "real Americans" in Appalachia are closet Adlai Stevenson fans? The numbers:
Florida: Obama edges McCain 47 - 43 percent;
Ohio: Obama tops McCain 48 - 42 percent;
Pennsylvania: Obama leads McCain 52 - 40 percen
The poll also reveals ongoing demographic challenges for John McCain:
In the three states, Obama leads McCain 10 to 23 percentage points among women, while men are too close to call. The Democrat trails among white voters in Florida and Ohio, but gets more than 90 percent of black voters in each state. He also has double-digit leads among young voters in each state.
And as to the idea of Hillary Clinton on the ticket, even in Clinton Country (Florida and Pennsylvania,) the idea leaves crucial independent voters cold:
Florida: Democrats want Clinton on the ticket 57 - 33 percent while Republicans are opposed 59 - 17 percent and independents oppose it 46 - 37 percent;
Ohio: Democrats want Clinton for Vice President 58 - 31 percent, but Republicans say no 60 - 19 percent and independents turn thumbs down 47 - 31 percent;
Pennsylvania: Democrats say yes to Clinton 60 - 31 percent, while Republicans say no 63 - 20 percent and independents nix the idea 49 - 36 percent.
"If Sen. Obama seriously is thinking about picking Sen. Clinton as his running mate, these numbers might cause him to reconsider. The people who really matter come November - independent voters - turn thumbs down on the idea. And, many say they are less likely to vote for him if he puts her on the ticket," Brown added.
The crucial finding here is that women are quickly consolidating behind the Obama candidacy, or against McCain, however you choose to spin it. As McCain's views become more widely known, he will become even more difficult to market to women, and to younger voters, for whom issues like the environment, ending the Iraq war, holding the Supreme Court and ridding the country of Bush era policies are paramount, and for whom McCain's very real sacrifices in war, frankly, age him all the more because they stem from a war younger voters only know as the father of unnecessary wars like Iraq. Add McCain's newfound zeal for offshore drilling, and you can imagine his stance helping him close the gap somewhat in Pennsylvania, but widening it in the Sunshine State.
By the way, the other problem with McDrilling is that the notion of despoiling Florida's coastline will, as Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times put it on MSNBC this morning, instantly activate a legion of environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters, who might otherwise have been less exercised by the McCain candidacy. These groups have lists, and they consist of mainly older, supervoters. If McCain's new stance touches off a very real push for drilling in Florida, his stance could fuel increased coordination by environmental groups and perhaps elements of the tourism industry, not only against his candidacy, but against other vulnerable Republicans in November.
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!"
How out of touch is John McCain? Apparently, out of touch enough to throw Florida under the bus in order to pander to voters in red states he's likely to win anyway. Because John, the voters you're pandering to ... the wingers who want to drill up, dig up, and strip mine every inch of arable land that doesn't have a depreciating home or a strip mall on it? Those wackos who don't get that America's oil fields are mostly tapped out, that the U.S. has one-tenth the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, one-fourth that of Venezuela and third that of Russia, and who want to turn the entire coastal plain into a scene out of "There Will be Blood" for a few more drops in the tank? They live in places like Alabama, Indiana, West Virginia ... you know, red states. The wingers who DO live in blue states are so overwhelmed numerically by Democrats, they don't matter. And the ones in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio? Have you taken a look at the voter registration numbers from the primary? They're going to get overwhelmed in November, too, by suburban moderates and urban hardcore Dems who care about the environment and don't cotton to ideas like ... say ... major tax breaks for the oil companies ... you know, stuff you like.
Meanwhile, McCain must think that a four point lead in Florida in a Quinnipiac poll from May translates into a lock on the state in November. That's the only conceivable reason he would do something as politically suicidal for his prospects in Florida as this:
Sen. John McCain called yesterday for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling, offering an aggressive response to high gasoline prices and immediately drawing the ire of environmental groups that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has courted for months.
The move is aimed at easing voter anger over rising energy prices by freeing states to open vast stretches of the country's coastline to oil exploration. In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly 80 percent said soaring prices at the pump are causing them financial hardship, the highest in surveys this decade.
"We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," McCain told reporters yesterday. In a speech today, he plans to add that "we have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. . . . It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions."
McCain's announcement is a reversal of the position he took in his 2000 presidential campaign and a break with environmental activists, even as he attempts to win the support of independents and moderate Democrats. Since becoming the presumptive GOP nominee in March, McCain has presented himself as a friend of the environment by touting his plans to combat global warming and his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Everglades.
A reversal...? From John McCain??? Say it isn't so!
Representatives of several environmental groups criticized him for backing an idea they said would endanger the nation's most environmentally sensitive waters.
"It's disappointing that Senator McCain is clinging to the failed energy policies of the past," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters.
Sierra Club political director Cathy Duvall said McCain "is using the environment as a way to portray himself as being different from George Bush. But the reality is that he isn't." The group began running radio commercials yesterday that criticize McCain's environmental record in the battleground state of Ohio.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama joined the criticism, calling the idea of lifting the ban the wrong answer to out-of-control energy prices. "John McCain's plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies," Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said.
Interestingly enough, McCain continues to oppose drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a view that allows his to continue pissing off right wingers in his party while his goal of trashing California and Florida helps him to kiss off moderates and independents, too. I think they call it "symmetry..."
McCain's speech today comes just after the candidate's Florida ally, Melly Mel Martinez smacked down Vice Lord Dick Cheney on the Senate floor over the issue of ... wait for it ... drilling off the coast of Florida:
Florida's Mel Martinez took to the Senate floor today to refute Republican assertions that China is drilling off the coast of Cuba.
"Reports to the contrary are simply false," Martinez said. "They are akin to urban legends. China drilling off the coast of Cuba only 60 miles from the Keys, that is not taking place..."
Republicans have pushed the "someone is drilling 60 miles off the Florida coast" for 2 years to back up efforts to open the coastline up to drilling. But experts familiar with the situation say there's no proof.
That's not stopping the story from making the rounds: speaking at the US Chamber of Commerce vice president Dick Cheney today quoted columnist George Will as saying "oil is being drilled right now 60 miles off the coast of Florida..."
The spat illustrates the potential minefield McCain is laying for himself on the issue of offshore drilling. No matter what his campaign says, McCain has no shot of winning California (where much of the Naval Petroleum Reserve is located, and mostly now in private hands following a Clinton-era privatization push, but largely undeveloped because at least in parts of California, there are houses and apartment buildings on the land...) But Florida IS in play, and picking a fight with Charlie Crist and Mel Martinez isn't exactly smart politics in a state with 22 percent independent voter registration.
And the winner is... Steven Schale, formerly the director of the Florida Democratic Party's House Victory committee and the man widely credited with helping Democrats have their best State House election year in a minute. From the Orlando Sentinel blog:
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign this morning announced Steve Schale as its Florida state director. Ashley Walker, who had been the campaign’s political director, will be deputy state director.
The Obama campaign has about 20 paid workers in the state and brought 400 “fellows” in this weekend. The fellows are volunteers who will focus on a voter registration drive in the state for the next six weeks.
As the state party’s House political director, Schale helped lead the 2006 campaign that picked up seven seats in the chamber —- what Democrats call their “most successful year in state party history”
Walker has been with Obama’s campaign since last year. She was a regional desk to states in the Northeast and South and played a senior role in Obama’s win in the Texas caucus. Walker former employers include former Gov. Bob Graham, Congressman Peter Deutsch and State Sen. Jeremy Ring.
Statewide, looks like Democrats may pick up as many as seven state House seats (Dan Gelber and Steve Schale must be smiling wide), and they'll break even on senate seats - Justice beating Berfield in SD 16 and Republican Oelrich beating Democrat Jennings in Rod Smith's SD 14.
Bill Heller comfortably beat Angelo Cappelli in HD 52; Janet Long narrowly beat Dottie Reeder in HD 51. In the Bradenton area HD 69, Democrat Keith Fitzgerald is barely leading Republican Laura Benson; In Orange County's HD 36, Democrat Scott Randolph unseated Republican Sherri McInvale; in Broward's District 97, Democrat Martin Kiar beat Republican Susan Goldstein; in Miami's 107, looks like Democrat Luis Garcia will take Gus Barreiro's seat, and in the Keys Democrat Ron Saunders won HD 120.
And as for that minute:
That's the first time Democrats have picked up state House seats in 16 years and their biggest gain in nearly 30 years.
And as for the scuttle about Team Obama writing off the Sunshine State, Schale says it ain't so:
"When you see us reach our full staff level, you're going to see an operation the size of which this state has never seen before on our side,'' said Schale, lavishing praise on Walker and dismissing talk (see here) about Obama not playing to win in Florida. "I would not take this job if I did not think Sen. Obama was committed to winning this state or didn't think he could win this state."
Once again, the statewide campaign will be run from Tampa, which should tell South Florida loudly and clearly that for Democrats on a national level, the political center of gravity in Florida has officially shifted north. Actually, it did so several cycles ago (remember where the McBride campaign was based? Remember Jim Davis' "I can win the I4" strategy, otherwise known as the "Ahab stalks white whale" gambit?) In short, it has shifted to where the election-by-election turnout percentages are better, including among black voters. (Plus, Tampa's a bigger media market -- more buy for your buck.) If South Florida wants to be in the game going forward, we'd better get our behinds to the polls this election cycle.
In the last ten election cycles, Democratic presidential candidates have won Florida just twice -- okay, three times if you count Al Gore. In fact, Gore's close call in Florida seems to be the only reason the state is considered "swing," rather than a ruby red part of the solid Republican South.
Whenever I say that Florida is a red state (as I did on Nick Bogert's Sunday political show on NBC this spring,) I get a chorus of "nays." But I'm convinced. And this year, I'm equally convinced that Florida will be tough -- though not impossible -- for Barack Obama to win. More to the point, if he doesn't win it, I think Florida's political operative class can count on less money, the state's media outlets will see fewer buys, and its voters less candidate attention going forward. Once a state ceases to be competitive, it turns into West Virginia, seen?
Why so downer, when your name is Joy? Let's review.
John Kerry lost Florida by more than 380,000 votes in 2004 -- a year in which Bush's approval ratings had already begun to fall to earth, his war in Iraq having proven to be a sham. Bill Clinton won the state by 302,000 in 1996, having lost it by about 100,000 votes four years earlier. But what helped Clinton win was the favor he curried with Miami-Dade's Cuban-American community, and two other factors: he was facing Bob Dole, who lacked the Bush-Nixon connection to Cuban exiles (not to mention being seriously charisma challenged -- and crowded out by Ross Perot...) and he was a southerner, like the last Democrat to win the state: Jimmy Carter in 1976. To find another Democratic presidential candidate who won Florida, you have to go back to yet another southerner: LBJ in 1964.
It's no wonder then, that Gore, a Tennesee native, fared well here, and that Kerry, the ultimate northeasterner, did not.
This cycle, there is no southerner on the ticket to help the Democrats win north of Orlando, or in the party's perennial great white whale, the I4 corridor (that could change -- the veeps have yet to be chosen) but Florida is currently polling more than 6 points in John McCain's favor.
For Democrats, past performance may be an indicator that the state is becoming less central to the Democratic strategy for winning the White House. And as the party begins to look West, to the reliably Democratic, non-Cuban Hispanic vote (which unlike CubAms, trends 70-30 D,) and since Florida's black vote has underperformed in every election since 2000, Florida will have to put up or shut up this time around to remain relevant for the next time.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Barack Obama's campaign envisions a path to the presidency that could include Virginia, Georgia and several Rocky Mountain states, but not necessarily the pair of battlegrounds that decided the last two elections — Florida and Ohio.
In a private pitch late last week to donors and former supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe outlined several alternatives to reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House that runs counter to the conventional wisdom of recent elections.
At a fundraiser held at a Washington brewery Friday, Plouffe told a largely young crowd that the electoral map would be fundamentally different from the one in 2004. Wins in Ohio and Florida would guarantee Obama the presidency if he holds onto the states won by Democrat John Kerry, Plouffe said, but those two battlegrounds aren't required for victory.
The presumed Democratic nominee's electoral math counts on holding onto the states Kerry won, among them Michigan (17 electoral votes), where Obama campaigns on Monday and Tuesday. Plouffe said most of the Kerry states should be reliable for Obama, but three currently look relatively competitive with Republican rival John McCain — Pennsylvania, Michigan and particularly New Hampshire.
Asked about his remarks, Plouffe said Ohio and Florida start out very competitive — but he stressed that they are not tougher than other swing states and said Obama will play "extremely hard" for both. But he said the strategy is not reliant on one or two states.
"You have a lot of ways to get to 270," Plouffe said. "Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th."
Plouffe has been pitching such a new approach to the electoral map in calls and meetings, according to several people who discussed the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were meant to be private. Plouffe confirmed the descriptions in the interview.
Plouffe and his aides are weighing where to contest, and where chances are too slim to marshal a large effort. A win in Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Georgia (15 votes) could give Obama a shot if he, like Kerry, loses Ohio or Florida.
The strategy could be risky, unless you consider that Colorado and New Mexico went Bush by a margin of 7 percent or less, and that Virginia is actually trending in Barack's direction. If I'm the candidate, damned if I play the Kerry electoral map and gamble it all on Ohio or Florida (and if I do, Ohio actually looks more possible today.)
I'm not saying that Obama shouldn't contest the Sunshine State. He can, and probably should, win it, based on defections by younger Cuban-Americans who favor his more liberal views on family visits to Cuba, and increased black turnout, particularly in northern Florida (especially Jacksonville,) where black precincts have actually begun to outperform majority black precincts in Broward or Dade. I sat in on a conference call for media last week with the party, in which party leaders made it clear that this year, the emphasis will not be on South Florida alone. The I4, Tampa (the state's largest media market), Tallahassee and Orlando will get just as much, if not more, attention.
So for those of us in the formerly crucial southern part of this southern state, it's put up or shut up time. If we want Florida to count, and we do... if we want to swing this state back into the truly "swing" column, and make Florida relevant to future Democratic candidates, let alone helping to elect Barack Obama, we'd better turn out at the polls like we've never turned out before.
If we don't do it this year, next time it may not matter.
Today, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the most ... active ... Clintonista in the Sunshine State, signed onto the following statement endorsing Barack Obama:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
June 5, 2008
Washington, DC – Florida Congressional Representatives Alcee L. Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kendrick B. Meek, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement today endorsing Barack Obama for President:
“It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we endorse Barack Obama for President.
“We are looking forward to working with Senator Obama in the days, weeks, and months ahead. America cannot afford another four years of failed Republican leadership, and we are committed to doing anything and everything in our power to ensure that Barack Obama is elected the next President of the United States.
“We also ask Shttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifenator Obama to do everything in his power to see to it that Florida has a full delegation to the Democratic National Convention with full voting rights.
“We congratulate Senator Clinton for a hard-fought campaign. Never in our lifetimes did we think that we would have the choice of a woman or an African American for the office of the presidency. We hope Americans realize how much the two of them have done for our country during this campaign. America is, indeed, a better place for having the two of them run for the highest office in the land.
“Recent elections have shown that the path to the presidency passes directly through Florida. Florida is in play this November and we invite Senator Obama and Senator Clinton to come to Florida to join us in events across the state from Key West to Pensacola and beyond. All of us standing on one stage, hand-in-hand will send a clear message to Florida voters that regardless of who we previously supported, we stand united and as one from this day forward.”
So why did we learn today, as I heard from someone on the Hill, that Debbie is also behind the following effort to strong-arm the presumptive nominee?
embers of Congress who support Clinton are weighing a joint letter to Senator Barack Obama pressing him to put Clinton on the ticket, a congressional aide confirmed.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida has suggested the letter, which would aim to represent the voices of female members of congress and those from swing states and key demographic groups.
The letter hasn't been drafted yet, though, and as with much of the day's vice presidential buzz, Clinton's supporters seem to be pressing ahead in the absence of clear direction from the candidate, who is meeting with her top advisors -- though not her husband --at her Arlington headquarters today.
"It’s still sort of in the premature stage of whether it’s going to happen or not," said John Bowman, Wasserman-Schultz's chief of staff. "She’s mentioned the idea but it hasn’t gone further."
Surely by now, Deb has caught a bit of cable news and analysis, and has figured out that this unsubtle approach is not only off-putting to the Obama camp, it's also bad for her (still) preferred candidate, Mrs. Clinton. It makes her look desperate, and it makes her look pushy -- not the best audition for a job she had scant chance of getting in the first place...
More on the machinations by Debbie and her Louise, Stephanie Tubbs Jones:
At a moment when Democrats would be expected to be rejoicing over the historic significance of Obama’s victory, any sense of joy seemed to be drowned out by competing messages from factions of lawmakers who have been warring for months.
In one corner of the House, female lawmakers such as Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) were planning to write a letter demanding that Clinton be on the presidential ticket.
“There are a lot of members of Congress who feel this way,” Wasserman Schultz said. “That way, we can maximize party unity and the odds of winning the election. They balance each other out in every way. They’re the dynamic duo. They really are.”
In another corner, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) declared that the Congressional Black Caucus should stay out of the business of pushing for a vice presidential nominee.
And in the Senate, Clinton and Obama surrogates talked respectfully about helping the party heal itself — yet Democrats disagreed over exactly how that should happen.
“The question now is: How do we integrate the supporters on both sides?” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a Clinton supporter. “But I think the winning side should do the reaching outhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif. They have to make sure they reach out to Clinton supporters to solidify the Democratic Party.”
Menendez, like other Clinton backers, said the vice presidential nod would seal the deal.
This is the height of hypocrisy. Miss Debbie is overstepping her mark, and combined with Stephanie Tubbs Jones latest TV performance today, saying that it's up to the Obama people to "welcome the Clinton backers in," you've got to think that these women are losing the plot.
There's a thing in politics that you might call "the pivot." It's when you're on what might be an unpopular side of an issue, and then, as if by magic, you're on the right side (or the same side as your constituents, or more to the point, the winning side...) I just got a tip that the Florida Democratic delegation, all of whom were Clinton backers, will endorse Barack Obama en masse today. There will be no press availability (and no questions), just a statement.
The delegation includes three Congressional Black Caucus members, Kendrick Meek, whose district went 55% to 40% for Barack, Corinne Brown, whose district favored Obama 58.1% to 30% and Alcee Hastings, whose district was Obamafied by a 52.1% to 41.2% margin, all of whom will make the switch, along with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the most vigorous of the Florida Clinton backers (with the possible exception of Brown), whose district is the only one of the four to favor Mrs. Clinton (62.7% to 25.3%). (I also hear that Wasserman Schultz is part of a letter campaign coming from inside Congress to try and shoehorn Hillary onto the ticket as Obama's vice president. Note to whoever: that's what you might call "unhelpful.")
The other members of the delegation include Kathy Castor, who was already for Obama. Robert Wexler is not only already an Obama endorser, he's the official "Obama Guy," and the man who stole the show at Saturday'http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifs Rules Committee meeting... Sen. Bill Nelson, who was for Clinton, and Ron Klein (Boca) and Tim Mahoney (Palm Beach Gardens) were still uncommitted as of Monday.
The Florida switch will be interesting news in the black community, where just today, a prominent Democratic activist told me they were planning to write an op-ed piece demanding that the black members respect the votes of their districts (just to show that turnabout is fair play, Robert Wexler's district favored Hillary in the primary, and he's taking some heat from some older, Jewish voters there for supporting Barack ...)
Georgia's John Lewis, who made a pain-filled switch to Obama earlier this year, has been all over TV as a born-again Obama supporter. He is the logical choice to introduce Barack at the nominating convention, where Obama will give his acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. By switching earlier in the year, he fended off a primary challenge, tamped down a revolt among voters in his district, and had to say no to longtime friend Bill Clinton.
The pressure has always been on HRC's black supporters, though the really beligerent ones like Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio caught the most flak. Charlie Rangel I think has gotten a pass, because he was the one who pushed Hillary to run for the Senate in the first place, and probably for the White House, and because the New York delegation made its endorsement of her as a NY "favorite daughter" and as a group. There was no one left hanging out there. But I can't tell you how much grumbling I've heard and read online about the others.
Now, they start trying to put the primary behind them, as Mrs. Clinton does too.
UPDATE: The endorsement statement, from Corinne Brown, Kendrick Meek, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been released. It reads in part:
“It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we endorse Barack Obama for president.
“We are looking forward to working with Senator Obama in the days, weeks, and months ahead. America cannot afford another four years of failed Republican leadership, and we are committed to doing anything and everything in our power to ensure that Barack Obama is elected the next President of the United States.
“We also ask Senator Obama to do everything in his power to see to it that Florida has a full delegation to the Democratic National Convention with full voting rights.
“We congratulate Senator Clinton for a hard-fought campaign. Never in our lifetimes did we think that we would have the choice of a woman or an African American for the office of the presidency. We hope Americans realize how much the two of them have done for our country during this campaign. America is, indeed, a better place for having the two of them run for the highest office in the land.
Following a unanimous vote to accept the full delegation/half vote compromise for Florida, Harold Ickes threw down the gauntlet on the Michigan compromise, which would accept the Michigan delegation at full seating with half votes apiece, and accepting the Michigan Democratic Party's preferred allocation of 69 delegates for Mrs. Clinton and 59 for Obama, each casting a half vote, rather than Clinton's preferred split of 73 for her and 55 for "uncomitted." Ickes "rose in opposition" while seated, and then scalded the committee, saying the compromise violates the fundamental principle of "fair reflection," meaning the proportion should reflect the will of the voters. (Ickes had sparred with Robert Wexler about the issue earlier today, just before he walked off the dais.) Said Ickes:
"I am stunned that we have the gall and the chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters, was the process flawed? you bet your ass it was flawed."
He then opined that in his view, "hijacking" four delegates from Hillary Clinton was no way to achieve party unity (the latter word used with derision by him throughout.)
After Ickes' rant, in which he characterized the delegates as the personal possession of Mrs. Clinton and closed by informing the room -- and the country -- that Mrs. Clinton had instructed him to "reserve her right to take the issue to the credentials committee," (that's tomorrow's headline, by the way) he was chastised harshly, by an African-American member of the committee, Everett Ward of North Carolina, who called the previous remarks "political propaganda." (full list of delegates by affiliation here.) That was almost as good as Donna Brazille telling Hillary's surrogate from Michigan that when she was growing up, her mama taught her that when you don't abide by the rules, it's called cheating..."
In the end, the motion passed 19-8, meaning Hillary failed to carry all 13 of her supporters on the committee. Hillary held onto Hartina Fluornoy and Elizabeth Smith, both of D.C., Ickes, of course, and lost Don Fowler.
Watching the DNC Rules Committee's blockbuster meeting, pretty much all morning and afternoon, a few pieces of news have come out of it. (CNN has a breakdown of who's who on the panel here.)
News item #1:
Harold Ickes and the other Hillary supporters on the committee -- about 13 of them -- intend to be very vigorous in pushing the committee to do what's best for HER. That's stunning, considhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifering the responsibility of that committee, ostensibly, to do what's best for the party, and for its voters. It's been rather startling to watch Ickes and other members of the panel, particularly Hartina Fluornoy, a Hillary superdelegate from D.C., advocate essentially as members of her campaign. Ickes, after a particularly contentious exchange with Obama Florida campaign chairman Robert Wexler, even appeared to walk out of the room, although MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell says he actually walked across the room, not all the way out.
News item #2:
Wexler made the most news today, announcing that the Obama campaign would be willing to support the position taken by Florida DNC member Jon Ausman, whose challenge created the core Democratic position of seating all of the state's superdelegates, whose selection depends on their election to Congress or appointment by the local DECs, not upon the date of the primary, and seating half of the pledged delegates. Wexler said the Obama campaign would be willing to allow Hillary to half the maximum number of delegates available to her: 19, as part of a deal, in the interests of party unity.
News item #3:
Michigan Senator Carl Levin made perhaps the most arresting presentation today, walking the panel through the process that he was a part of, going back to the 2004 party convention, to try and change the almost regal status of New Hampshire and Iowa, with their presumed "god-given right" to hold their votes first. Levin was part of a reform panel that included the Rules Committee members, which agreed that at least one caucus would be moved up in the calendar, such that that state -- Nevada -- would caucus after Iowa but before New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, whose secretary of state has the authority to move the state's primary at will, violated that agreement and moved its primary ahead of Nevada's anyway. New Hampshire appealed to the Rules Committee for a waiver, so that it could preserve its status in defiance of an agreed-upon rules change. So Michigan, which has fought, with Levin's leadership, for a more diverse opening to the campaign, decided to apply for a waiver, too, to send a message that if New Hampshire wouldn't comply, somebody had to face down the bully. the committee gave New Hampshire its waiver but denied one to Michigan. In the end, whereas Florida's primary was held at the mercy of the Republican legislature and governor, Michigan's was an act of principled defiance. Given that, Levin said, no further punishment should ensue. To my mind, that was the most compelling argument made today. It certainly moved committee member Donna Brazille.
News item #1:
Howard Wolfson was just on NBC continuing to take pot shots at Barack Obama, and essentially asserting, as did Hillary's advocates before the panel, that they would settle for nothing short of a full seating of both delegations to her advantage, and would concede nothing to the Obama camp in return. They want Obama to get zero delegates out of Michigan, even while they concede that most, if not all, of the 40 percent "uncommitted" vote would favor Obama. And they want the maximum vote in Florida, too (although Bill Clinton may have conceded privately that his wife would wind up with half). So, to quote Pat Buchanan, Hillary wants "the whole hog." Their position is so recalcitrant, and so basically ugly, it makes me wonder if they have any interest whatsoever, in unifying the party, except under Hillary Clinton as nominee (something that would be all-but impossible, since I don't see how she would attract Obama's core supporters, young voters and Black voters, even if she could snatch the nomination away.) Meanwhile, the Obama team seems more reasonable, more willing to compromise and make concessions, and more eager to unify the party. As one reporter put it, the Obama camp is acting "the way a winner acts." That will matter, I think, to uncommitted superdelegates who are observing today's proceedings.
...In many ways, Mr. Obama is wheezing across the finish line after making a strong start: He has won only 6 of the 13 Democratic contests held since March 4, drawing 6.1 million votes, compared with 6.6 million for Mrs. Clinton.
Still, Mrs. Clinton’s associates said she seemed to have come to terms over the last week with the near-certainty that she will not win the nomination, even as she continues to assert, with what one associate described as subdued resignation, that the Democrats are making a mistake in sending Mr. Obama up against Senator John McCain.
One of the last procedural fights took place Saturday in Washington where, with demonstrators supporting Mrs. Clinton marching outside, the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee struggled with the question of whether to seat at the convention members of the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan. Those states have been sanctioned by the party for holding their contests in January in defiance of the primary calendar laid out by the Democratic National Committee.
Mrs. Clinton has kept her counsel about what she might do to draw her campaign to a close and when she might do it. Her associates said the most likely outcome is that she will end her bid with a speech, probably back home in New York, in which she would endorse Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton herself suggested on Friday that the contest will end sometime next week.
Still, she has signaled her ambivalence about the outcome, continuing to urge superdelegates to keep an open mind and consider, for example, the number of popular votes she has won. Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a superdelegate who has been at the forefront of calling for uncommitted Democrats to make a choice soon after the last vote, said in an interview that Mrs. Clinton called him last week and urged him to “keep an open mind until the convention.”
Assuming Mr. Obama reaches the total number of delegates and superdelegates he needs to secure the nomination in the coming week, Mrs. Clinton will be faced with three options, associates said: to suspend her campaign and endorse Mr. Obama; to suspend her campaign without making an endorsement; or to press the fight through the convention. Several of Mrs. Clinton’s associates said it was unlikely she would fight through the convention, given the potential damage it would do to her standing within the party, which is increasingly eager to unify and turn to the battle against Mr. McCain.
Mrs. Clinton would almost surely face the defection of some of her highest-profile supporters, as well as some members of her staff. She would no doubt also face anger from Democratic leaders as she contemplates a return to the Senate and, potentially, another run for the White House. ...
And as for superdelegates:
... “A number of people have reported that various members intend to endorse AFTER the last primary,” said one e-mail message to wavering delegates from Mr. Obama’s supporters, its warning barely couched. “Those members need to understand that they won’t get any visibility from that.”
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who endorsed Mr. Obama nearly two months ago and campaigned with him last week, recently called Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado, who has yet to endorse. “Hey Ritter!” Mr. Richardson said. “After June 3, it means nothing. Those who take a little bit of a risk, he’ll remember you.”
On the other end of the line, Mr. Ritter demurred, saying he had pledged to remain neutral until the primary seasons ends.
A tale of two campaigns: rumble in the sunshine state
A day after John McCain held his panderfest at the Versailles restaurant in Miami (for those not from South Florida, Versailles is where the old Cuban heads hang out and kvetch about Fidel Castro, and how they coulda, shoulda, and woulda deposed him if not for those darned Kennedys...) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama barnstormed Florida today, and with very, very different vibes. First, Mrs. Clinton:
She spoke to about 800 "seasoned folk" at the Century Village retirement complex in Boca. An unfortunate paragraph from the Sun-Sentinel article:
Clinton added a new wrinkle to her argument: Not only should Florida's vote count - but all of the state's 210 delegates should be seated according to the results that gave her a 17-percentage point victory.
Did they have to mention wrinkles???
Meanwhile, Barack Obama spoke to the LARGEST CROWD EVER in the state, in of all places, Republican-leaning Tampa. The Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard does the honors:
How does a presidential candidate make up for snubbing, disparaging and being downright rude to the nation's largest battleground state for nine long months? If you're Barack Obama, you do it with the largest campaign event ever in the state of Florida -- a sold-out rally at a hockey arena with more than 15,000 people.
''It's good to be back in Florida,'' Obama told the rowdy crowd, which didn't want to sit down or shut up. ``I know you guys have been holding down the fort.''
Hey, Beth, what's with the snubbing and disparaging? I don't remember Barack doing any of that...
Anyhoo, the contrast, you might say, is striking.
And look for Barack to beat the Tampa crowd record when he comes to Broward on Friday. The BankAtlantic Center arena in Sunrise holds more than 20,000 people.
It's hard to understand where Debbie Wasserman Schultz's head is these days. Lately, she seems determined to position herself at the right-most edge of the party, so much so that one begins to see shades of Joe Lieberman, only without the annoying voice and the major crush on John McCain.
First, it was impeachment. Debbie isn't for it, and that's fair enough. But she chose to vent her opposition in particularly bombastic fashion on the Ed Schultz (no relation) radio show a couple months ago, essentially labeling proponents of the concept of merely researching the possibility of impeaching President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, over the innumerable outrages against the civil liberties of Americans and against the prerogatives of Congress, let alone the Constitution, as crackpots who are out of step with both reality, and with the majority of voters. Well count among the crackpots constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, her own fellow Democratic Congressman, Robert Wexler, and a plurality of Americans, according to the last polls conducted on the subject ...
Then, the congresswoman made it clear, as did her fellow South Florida Democrat, Kendrick Meek, that she had no intention of working to unseat three of the most intrenched and intransigent Republicans elected in Florida, even though she chairs the "Red to Blue" committee of the DCCC. She says she won't work against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers, because they are her friends, and because she and Ileana trade child rearing tips. All very nice, but not exactly spoken like a Democrat interested in growing the party's majority -- and thus its effectiveness at passing legislation -- in the House. As Steve Clemons points out:
... the Republicans that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is hugging tightly are three Members of Congress who have actually had the power to make the Cold War colder in a small area of the world off of the U.S. border -- Cuba. They have thrived despite the phenomenal failure of the US embargo of Cuba and have succeeded in keeping a more serious interest-driven US foreign policy toward Cuba from ever taking hold.
Two of the Congressman that Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to protect are brothers -- Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL-21) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25). They are nephews by marriage (ended by divorce) of Fidel Castro himself. They are the sons of the former Speaker of the House in Cuba during the tenure of US-friendly dictator Fulgencio Batista. Knowing them and their family history gives one insights into the unique and bizarre family feud that the US-Cuba policy standoff is really about.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz seemingly turns a blind eye to the suspension of justice, the nepotism, and the corruption that have surrounded the Miami side of the US-Cuba policy feud. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18) has helped protect and then celebrate the achievements of Cuban-American terrorists -- particularly Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada -- in both Florida and in her Congressional role in Washington. It is truly shocking to read what Members of the US House of Representatives have been complicit in as told in the disturbing chronicle of the underbelly of US-Cuba relations, "Twilight of the Assassins," by Ann Louise Bardach that ran in November 2006 in the Atlantic Monthly.
Either Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz does not read, is ignorant of the background and activities of these three Republican congressman, or she is complicit. Which is it?
Can I go with "B" for $200 please?
Now, Debbie has weighed in on the very tired Rev. Wright dust-up:
Especially in some of the states that have yet to vote, the Wright affair “is a big vulnerability,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a Clinton superdelegate. And “all of this delegate stuff is artificial,” she added, alongside the reality that the party’s nominee must be able to carry big states like hers, where Mrs. Clinton won a disputed victory; Ohio, where she triumphed last month; and Pennsylvania, where she leads in polls.
Now it's not secret that Barack Obama is having some trouble with Jewish voters, given that he has demonstrated a certain independence on the issue of Palestine. Here in Florida, the problem is even more acute, with an elected official in Broward who I won't name, but who attended a breakfast for Obama supporters recently (which I also attended), literally telling those assembled that some Jewish voters in her district "literally think he is the antichrist," and they don't even believe in Christ! But is it appropriate for Ms. Wasserman Schultz to add herself to the whisperers about Obama's racial/ethnic attitudes? If and when he does become the nominee, what will she say then? One hopes that in private, she is dispelling ridiculous notions about the Senator among her constituents, rather than nursing them.
The entire flap has led some leftward leaning Democrats to ask whether it's time to introduce Ms. Wasserman-Schultz to the business end of democracy:
What gives with Wasserman-Schultz. Does she think that because she has a safe seat she can libel Democrats and kiss up to right-wing Republicans and get away with it? Are we that stupid?
The Koskids even threw a poll, and it came up 96% to 3% in favor of giving Debbie a challenger in the August primary. Maybe it's time she had one.
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!"
It's official. There will be no Florida re-do. The Florida Democratic Party made the announcement yesterday. Here's most of the letter. It includes a link to audio of the floor statements by State Rep. Dan Gelber (Dem) trying to push the Florida vote back to Feb. 5 (the person you'll hear first is Republican State Rep. David Rivera, a guy with a pleasant enough smile, but who was also one of the forces behind gambling expansion here in South Florida, among other things...)
Dear Florida Democrats,
For a year now, the Florida Democratic Party has tried to comply with the Delegate Selection Rules of the Democratic National Committee.
We researched every potential alternative process - from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections - but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.
We made a detailed case to the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, but we were denied.
Does '537' ring a bell? It should. It's the number of votes that separated Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in Florida in 2000.
It's the number that sent this country and this world in a terrible direction.
We can't let 537 - or the Republicans - determine our future again.
President Bush plans to stop in Florida tomorrow to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican National Committee's efforts to elect his successor in November.
The last thing America needs is a third Bush term. Despite the widespread anxiety that working families feel, not to mention the broad agreement among economists that we are in a recession, President Bush and John McCain blindly believe that the economy is strong.
And let me remind you that John McCain endorsed President Bush's decision to deny health care to thousands of Florida children by vetoing an expansion of the successful SCHIP program. McCain also promises to jeopardize the financial security of Florida seniors by privatizing Social Security. He continually threatens to push Florida's military families to the brink by keeping American troops in Iraq for "100 years" or more.
This is why we are Democrats, and this is why we must stick together, no matter where this ongoing delegate debate takes us.
Last week, the Florida Democratic Party laid out the only existing way that we can comply with DNC Rules - a statewide revote run by the Party - and asked for input.
Thousands of people responded. We spent the weekend reviewing your messages, and while your reasons vary widely, the consensus is clear: Florida doesn't want to vote again.
So we won't.
A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the Party were to pay for it. Republican Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio refuses to even consider that option. Florida is finally moving to paper ballots, which is a good thing, but it means that at least 15 counties do not have the capacity to handle a major election before the June 10th DNC primary deadline.
This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.
When this committee stripped us of 100% of our delegates last year, some members summed up their reasoning by saying, "The rules are the rules." Unfortunately, the rules did not apply to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina when they, too, violated the DNC calendar by moving from their assigned dates.
As the late great Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "We must adjust our ideas to the facts of today... Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are."
Florida Democratic Party leaders are scrambling to come up with a deal for a "mulligan" in the stat's early primary fiasco. Today, state party chair Karen Thurman unveiled a plan, which is being pushed by Sen. Minority Leader Steve Gellar (who represents a wealthy part of South Florida) but which is opposed by the state's congressional delegation, to hold a "do-over" vote, mostly by mail. The prospect seemed relatively bright yesterday, but today, it looked like the effort is hitting the skids. From the Tallahassee Democrat (no relation):
State chairwoman Karen Thurman said the plan she distributed to party leaders and posted on the party Web site is "not a done deal." But she said a combination of a mailed balloting and some in-person assistance for those who need it is the best way for complying with Democratic National Committee rules. That, in turn, could get all or most of Florida's 211-vote delegation seated in Denver next summer.
Gov. Charlie Crist told Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, the state could help with some logistics of certifying voter rolls and other details. But no taxpayer money will be used, so the party will have to raise between $10 million and $12 million for the re-vote.
Asked how likely that is, Thurman said at a news conference, "I don't know. I have a feeling it's getting closer to not than yes."
The DNC would have to approve the deal, as would both presidential campaigns (not to mention the $10-12 million cost, for which the DNC has so far offered just a fraction - $850,000, and Gov. Crist has already said don't look at him, Florida's in the red.) In other words, a deal is not likely, especially with the Obama camp (and the members of Congress) expressing concern that not everybody would get their mailed ballot, that some minorities may be left out due to outdated voter rolls, or that the hodgepodge of mailed ballots and "walk-in centers" where people could vote in person would be too much for Florida's always questionable election infrastructure to handle. Even the notion of hiring one of those crack accounting firms that tally the votes for Miss America and such won't mollify nervous Floridians, who, frankly, barely trust the system we have now. (I'm not one of the skeptics. I think that if the federal government can trust us to mail in or e-file our taxes, for god's sake, we should be able thttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifo handle voting by mail. But there you go...)
Anyhoo, I've spoken with a couple of people "in the know" today, and none sounded persuaded that a re-vote is going to happen.
That leaves two options: leave things as they are, and make Florida (and Michigan) live with the choice they made to break party rules (stupid rules, by the way, but rules nonethless...) or work out some mathematical formula that allows the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated in Denver, but not to change the outcome of the race.
Option two sounds like the winner, since its just not going to happen that Florida's delegates would be locked out of the convention. Howard Dean may be a weak chairman, and he may be wimping out on solving this mess from the top, but he's not insane.
2 p.m. announcement from the Florida Democratic Party, which is expected to announce a paper ballot re-vote for the state's previously set-aside voters. I guess they're not listening to the Congresspeople. The big question is going to be: who would pay the $10 million cost of such a ballot.
Got a bit of the insomnia tonight ... er ... this morning, so here are a couple of things on the radar:
Reaction is beginning to bubble about Congressmen Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Kendrick Meek refusing to get involved in three crucial Democratic House races this fall, because of their close relationships with the Republican incumbents.
First, congrats to Bret Berlin on winning the Dem chairmanship in Miami-Dade, and on speaking up (ditto NoMi Mayor Kevin Burns on the speaking up thing...) Second, I doubt that much will come of the temporary spurts of outrage, including on the part of the Miamiherald.com commenters. Miami-Dade County is not exactly known for civic upheaval (or for particular political courage.) It's more of a "status quo" kind of town, if you know what I mean ... all of the incumbents on both sides of the aisle will in all likelihood be handily, and lazily reelected, no Democrat will be punished by the voters, and the people will continue to bitch and moan and do absolutely nothing about anything, and when reelection time rolls around again, the whole, dismal cycle will be repeated. Sad to say it, but that's the way we roll down here in Flawrida.
Washington, DC – The Members of Florida’s Democratic Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives issued the following statement regarding the seating of Florida’s delegates at the DNC National Convention this August.
“We are committed to working with the DNC, the Florida State Democratic party, our Democratic leaders in Florida, and our two candidates to reach an expedited solution that ensures our 210 delegates are seated.
“Our House delegation is opposed to a mail-in campaign or any redo of any kind.”
Now keep in mind that really, all six members of the South Florida delegation are Hillary Clinton supporters (the three Black Democrats are Hillary super delegates and the three Cuban-Americans are Republicans who I'm sure would rather run against La Bruja Clinton). So take their umbrage with a grain of salt. However, the last time I talked with people from the state party, they weren't exactly itching to do a re-vote either, and the folks I talked to were Obama supporters.
Whether there is ultimately a re-vote or not, look for the party, led by the stunningly weak Howard Dean, to work out some way to seat the Florida delegation. They'll have to. After the scorched earth mess the Clinton campaign is making of the primary, Dean can't afford to add a floor fight in Denver to his headaches.
The liaisons between Spitzer and a number of different prostitutes occurred around the country, including in Washington, D.C., and Florida, the sources said. For each encounter, Spitzer paid several thousand dollars, the sources said.
... The high-end service listed three prostitutes in Miami, which employees complained was not enough to guarantee availability for clients, according to snippets of wiretapped conversations filed in court documents.
Two of the women, who used the names Dorine and Michelle, met Feb. 2 in Miami with two men, including a repeat customer identified as "Client-5," according to court records.
Lewis told the client the fee for each woman would be $1,000 per hour or $3,600 for four hours, more if he paid with a credit card, records state.
And last but not least, Florida legislators are invited to win Ben Stein's ... creationism documentary? Only in the Sunshine State.