A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
BRACING FOR A DECISION ON OBAMACARE
President Obama and the White House “have put on brave faces,” the New York Times reports, insisting that their health care law “and the mandate at its center will be upheld when the court rules this month. In private conversations, they predict that the bulk of the law will survive even if the mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance does not.”
“But even if the White House is a fortress of message discipline, it cannot disguise the potential heartbreak for Mr. Obama, who managed to achieve a decades-old Democratic dream despite long odds and at steep cost.”
“In grappling with what the court may do, Mr. Obama and his advisers now appear to be far past the denial stage (when they dismissed constitutional challenges) but nowhere near acceptance (they still believe the law will be upheld.) Instead, they have quietly entered a surprising new state that might be called Learning to Live Without Universal Coverage.”
>>>The New York Times is also reporting the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s health care law may not come on Monday as many have assumed.
OBAMA IN FLORIDA: “WE DON’T NEED AN OUTSOURCING PIONEER IN THE OVAL OFFICE”
An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 3,000 came to Hillsborough Community College in Tampa on Friday to see Obama, some arriving to line up early in the morning, for a late afternoon rally amid heat and thunderstorms, his first of many Florida campaign stops to come. It was his second stop in Florida after speaking to Hispanic leaders earlier in Orlando.
The energetic crowd cheered before, during and after his speech, chanting “fired up, ready to go” and “four more years” and many repeating his words as he spoke.
MEDIA COMPLAIN ABOUT RESTRICTIONS AT TAMPA EVENT
Via Michael Van Sickler: A dozen banquet tables were set up for reporters in the back of the Hillsborough Community College gymnasium. Two bleacher risers held TV cameras. The media section was cordoned off from the members of the public. Reporters couldn’t leave their designated areas.
“It sucks for reporters,” said Mitch Perry, the political editor for Creative Loafing. “It’s a funky set-up. I don’t like it.”
Obama campaign officials said the set-up was standard. If the media area wasn’t cordoned off, reporters would complain that there was no designated area, they said.
PRO-OBAMA SUPER PAC LAUNCHES THIRD AD ATTACKING ROMNEY ON BAIN RECORD
The pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action has a new TV ad in Florida, the latest in a series of negative spots about Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital. The ad is part of a $10 million campaign and is also airing in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Watch here.
IN BELLWETHER PASCO COUNTY, A PRESIDENTIAL ENTHUSIASM GAP by Tom Jackson of the Tampa Tribune
The major parties’ presidential campaigns debuted their Pasco County headquarters within a couple of days of each other last week, not that you should have noticed.
It would be a stretch to suggest the scenes, as compellingly imbalanced as they were, suggest anything relevant about an election still nearly five months away. But if the campaign tilts toward the candidate whose volunteers come out of the blocks with the greatest enthusiasm, you’d have to like Barack Obama’s chances in Pasco County.
And that, as Jeb Bush noted on Election Night 2004 — as Pasco goes, so goes Florida, and so on — is no small consideration.
KOCH BROS. TARGET BILL NELSON
Americans for Prosperity, the tea-party group funded in great part by the Koch Brothers (the conservative version of George Soros), have launched a six-state $3 million ad buy that targets Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, among others, reports Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald.
HOW DEMOCRATS ARE MESSAGE-TESTING NELSON’S STRENGTHS AND CONNIE MACK’S WEAKNESSES
“Less than 20 minutes after Lemieux quit, an outfit that called itself “Florida Opinion Survey” began polling Florida voters to test a number of political messages that undoubtedly will be used to boost incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and tear at Mack,” reports Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald.
“This wasn’t a so-called “push poll” — a call that masquerades as a survey but simply trashes an opponent. Instead, it’s a message-test poll that political consultants use to figure out what helps their candidate and hurts his opponent.”
“All the info will be boiled down into flyers and radio and television ads that make Florida elections into commercial-driven affairs where one-sided information is broadcast in 30-second increments. It’s a window into both the Democrats’ upcoming campaign against Mack as well as the misleading discourse that defines our politics.”
WITH GEORGE LEMIEUX DROPPING OUT, BROWARD GOP REASSESSING
Assuming frontrunner Connie Mack wins the Republican Senate primary, Broward GOP activists will clearly favor him against the incumbent, Democrat Bill Nelson. But the question is whether those activists who have been chummy with LeMieux for years will join forces to help Mack pick up more votes in Broward.
“One thing about the Broward Republicans — we always unite behind the nominee,” said Broward GOP chairman Richard DeNapoli. “I think that’s what’s going to happen.”
CNN AIRS INVESTIGATION OF VERN BUCHANAN
CNN has confirmed there are “no fewer than four congressional and federal investigations” into Rep. Vern Buchanan “business practices, his campaign finances and his alleged attempt to try to stop a witness from talking.”
“Now that witness is stepping forward in an exclusive interview with CNN. Buchanan’s former business partner says the congressman schemed to launder money from his car dealerships into his campaign coffers, and then tried to get others to cover it up.”
FLORIDA RANKS FOURTH IN ECONOMIC INSECURITY
When it comes to economic insecurity Florida’s hard to beat. A new report says Florida ranks fourth behind Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. The Rockefeller Foundations and Yale University professor Jacob Hacker collaborated on the report titled “Economic Insecurity Across the American States.” Their Economic Security Index tracks the proportion of Americans who see their available household income drop by 25 percent or more in a single year and who lack the ability to replace this lost income.
BUT, IN SOUTH FLORIDA, A SIGN OF ECONOMIC TURNAROUND
Development applications, often seen as a leading indicator of future construction activity, have hit a seven-year high in West Palm Beach, reports Alex Sanz.
New figures compiled by the city’s planning division showed 2012 had seen the highest level of activity since 2005.
Since October, the city had received more than $243,000 in planning-related application fees — 94% of what it expected for the entire year.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Our state is doing extremely well. We still have 800,000 people out of work, but we’re changing it. Tourism is way up, jobs are up, housing prices are staying stable. If you want to buy a house, now is the time.” — Rick Scott, quoted by TPM, apparently not heeding the advice of Mitt Romney’s campaign to downplay positive economic news in Florida.
BIG READ FROM THE WEEKEND: RICK SCOTT’S RECORD MORE POLISHED BUT HIS RECORD HAS CONTRADICTIONS
(E)very campaign must run on a record, and that’s where the governor’s carefully crafted image gets wobbly, reports Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald.
Scott has stopped touting the state’s job creation and instead brags that “we’ve had the biggest drop in unemployment of any state in the last 18 months.”
The statement implies that Floridians have gone back to work at faster pace than the rest of the nation, but the state’s top economists note that 75 percent of the drop is due to people dropping out of the labor force and who are no longer counted among the unemployed.
Other contradictions abound. The governor vowed to make education a priority, then signed the state budget that cut $300 million from universities and included a spending plan that assumed a 15 percent tuition increase and the creation of a 12th university. Last week he then urged the Board of Governors to make Florida “Number 1 in affordability” and reject the tuition hikes. They didn’t. More here.
Really, Mary Ellen, the governor has a political consultant and media strategist on retainer and speed dial? Shocking!
MORE FROM THE WEEKEND
***SUNBURN is brought to you by KEVIN CATE COMMUNICATIONS. I’ve called Cate one of the smartest guys in any room, but that was last year. His firm continues to change the way public relations works in Florida. Believe me, you want www.CateComm.com on your side.***
GAETZ, SR. STAYING NEUTRAL, BUT GAETZ, JR. GETTING INVOLVED IN STATE SENATE RACES
Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz said he would stay away from influencing the outcome of future Senate presidencies after he supported Sen. John Thrasher’s failed attempt to replace Sen. Andy Gardiner in the 2014 presidency race earlier this year, reports the Florida Current.
But that doesn’t mean Gaetz’ son, Rep. Matt Gaetz, can’t support GOP primary opponents of Latvala supporters. The younger Gaetz will host a fundraiser next week for Rep. Jeff Brandes, who is battling with Rep. Jim Frishe, a staunch Latvala supporter, for the Republican nomination in the Senate District 22 seat.
SIFTING THROUGH ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES’ ENDORSEMENTS
Last week, Associated Industries revealed its first round of endorsements in state legislative races. For the most part, the powerful business lobby threw its support behind incumbents running in relatively easy races, while avoiding decision in most high-profile contests, such as those in Central Florida. However, there were a few “intriguing” decisions, as Travis Pillow of the Florida Current noted.
Most interesting was AIF’s decision to support Mike Weinstein over Aaron Bean in SD 4. Certainly, there is a lot of three-dimensional chess involved in this decision, including how it relates to the race for the Senate Presidency in 2016, but sources at AIF say the decision to support Weinstein came down to the fact that Weinstein has been better on AIF’s issues than Bean.
AIF also endorsed in two competitive Democratic primaries, supporting Mack Bernard over Jeff Clemens in SD 27 and Ron Saunders over several other Democratic candidates in SD 39.
As for House races, AIF decided to support: Republican Mike Davis over GOP incumbent Rep. Ronald Renuart in HD 17; Rep. Steve Perman over former Rep. Kevin Rader in the Democratic primary for HD 81; Manny Diaz Jr. over Renier Diaz de la Portilla in the GOP primary for HD 103; Rep. John Patrick Julien over Rep. Barbara Watson in the Democratic primary for HD 107.
JEB BUSH ENDORSES KELLI STARGEL FOR SD 15
Locked in a tough GOP primary against Jack Myers and Ron Rushing, Rep. Kelli Stargel received a much-needed lift from Jeb Bush, who endorsed Stargel in Senate District 15.
“Kelli is consistent conservative leader who has made student achievement a priority. Thanks to her dedication and leadership, Florida continues to be a model for a student-centered education,” Bush said.
LOBBYISTS FIGHTING TOM LEE’S STATE SENATE COMEBACK
Three veteran lobbyists with decades of experience and dozens of influential clients are openly shunning Lee in an act of defiance that’s rare in Tallahassee, reports Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times.
Ron Book, Guy Spearman and Jack Cory are all behind Rachel Burgin.
Lee said he didn’t take their opposition personally — and their opposition may even help him burnish his image as someone unafraid to stand up to the powerful. “The people who don’t support you tend to be more vocal than the ones who do,” Lee said.
LIZ ALBERT BACK ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL TO CHALLENGE REP RAY PILON by Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Fourteen years ago, Alpert, then a Tampa Democrat, came within 1,500 votes of winning a seat in the Florida Legislature against Republican Sandra Murman.
Since then, Alpert, a Democrat, has gone to law school in her 50s, graduated and opened her own private practice in Sarasota. But the fire to run for the Legislature never went away. So Alpert is at it again, preparing to challenge State Rep. Ray Pilon for House District 72.
“I just feel I have something to contribute,” said Alpert, who qualified to run earlier this month.
LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND
Off: Chris Sileo, formerly district secretary for Rep. Chris Dorworth
Off: Kristina DiPano, a writer for the House Journal.
FLORIDA FAMILY ACTION HIRES 15, WILL SET UP NINE FIELD OFFICES
Gearing up for the 2012 elections, Florida Family Action, an advocacy and political action committee that describes itself as pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-family, has hired 15 field officers and staff for nine regional field stations for the upcoming election cycle, reports the News Service of Florida. The Orlando-based group began opening field office this week. Locations include Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach Pensacola, Orlando, Naples, Jacksonville, Clearwater and Miami.
ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR BECOMING A POPULAR JOB
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes that the job running elections is in hot demand. “For years, county elections supervisor jobs were viewed as mundane administrative posts with so little public policy work that most politicians did not even consider running for them. Now, along Florida’s west coast, seasoned political players are looking to parlay their years of experience in partisan battles into an advantage in becoming elections overseers.”
>>>US Rep. John Mica beat out US Rep. Sandy Adams at the Seminole County REC straw poll.
>>>The Florida Medical Association endorsed David Phillips in HD 69.
>>>Local law enforcement announced their endorsement of Republican candidate Dane Eagle for HD 77.
>>>The Seminole Tribe of Florida has formed a PAC, hoping to protect its gaming interests.
ALOE TO SOOTHE THE BURN: President Obama’s re-election campaign opened an event registry to to allow your guests to give a campaign donation instead of a gift.
MORE ALOE: At a conference on climate change sponsored by Florida Atlantic University … a bleak picture was painted … for much of coastal Florida. Under current projections, the Atlantic Ocean would swallow much of the Florida Keys in 100 years. Miami-Dade, in turn, would eventually replace them as a chain of islands on the highest parts of the coastal limestone ridge, bordered by the ocean on one side and an Everglades turned into a salt water bay on the other.
SUGGESTED READING: Coming later this summer: Dead Man Wins Election by Phil Mason. The book is a collection of “the wackiest and most unbelievable tales” in politics.